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Trump administration ramps up barriers to asylum

29 June 20200 comments

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Trump administration can deport some asylum-seekers without granting them a federal court hearing.

The ruling means that asylum-seekers on track for expedited removal from the US are not entitled to seek habeas corpus – or the right to challenge government detention. The court also ruled that a 1996 law allowing for fast-tracked deportations is constitutional.

The high court reversed a lower court ruling in favour of a Sri Lankan farmer, Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, who fled his country saying he was persecuted as a member of the country’s Tamil minority and was apprehended just across the US-Mexican border in 2017.

Two of the Supreme Court5 Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

In her dissenting opinion, Sotomayor said Congress had blocked the courts from carrying out a lawful judicial inquiry into asylum claims.

“Today’s decision handcuffs the judiciary’s ability to perform its constitutional duty to safeguard individual liberty and dismantles a critical component of the separation of powers,” she wrote.

She also said the court’s action “increases the risk of erroneous immigration decisions that contravene governing statutes and treaties”.

Refugee activists say the ruling does away with a “safety valve for asylum-seekers” and that the case, with its call for judicial review of the actions of Congress and the president – in light of the administration’s current asylum limits – had missed the chance to offer “an important safeguard.”

The law highlighted in this case is the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which established a system for regulating asylum applications and streamlining the process of removing immigrants said to have claims without merit.

Since 2004, immigration officials have specifically targeted for expedited removal immigrants without legal documentation who were apprehended within 100 miles of the US border and within 14 days of entering the country.

Just last week, the Supreme Court, in another ruling, that the Trump Administration could not carry out its plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The decision affected hundreds of thousands of so-called ‘Dreamers’ across the United States who have been anxiously awaiting certainty for years.

Since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has shielded many young undocumented immigrants from deportation. The Trump administration’s 2017 announcement of its plans to end DACA threw their lives into uncertainty.

The Supreme Court has blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end the program. The court’s 5-4 ruling will allow DACA recipients to continue to renew membership in the program and remain in the US – for now.

But the Trump administration could move again to rescind the program.