Court rules asylum-seekers have right to appeal rejection in US

Court rules asylum-seekers have right to appeal rejection in US
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A California federal appeals court ruled Thursday that asylum-seekers have the right to appeal rejections in U.S. courts.

Under current law, if an asylum officer and an immigration judge determine that a migrant does not have a "credible fear" of persecution in their homeland, then they can be deported.

Thursday's ruling broadens constitutional protections for undocumented immigrants, allowing some of them to appeal for permission to stay in the country.

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“The historical and practical importance of this ruling cannot be overstated,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

"This decision reaffirms the Constitution’s foundational principle that individuals deprived of their liberty must have access to a federal court."

Gelernt argued the appeal on behalf of Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a Sri Lankan migrant turned away at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017. 

A member of the Tamil minority, he claimed to have been kidnapped, beaten, and tortured for supporting a Tamil political candidate.

After requesting asylum following being arrested crossing the border in 2017, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agent determined Thuraissigiam had not established a "credible fear" of returning to Sri Lanka.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the "credible fear" rule for turning away asylum seekers violates precedent of judicial rulings granting constitutional protection to non-citizens.

"We think it obvious that the constitutional minimum … is not satisfied by such a scheme," the judges wrote.

The ruling applies to asylum seekers in the five states included in the court’s jurisdiction: California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii. Gelernt told USA Today that immigrants rejected asylum-seekers in those states will now be able to request an appeal from a federal judge.

The 9th Circuit's ruling conflicts with an earlier ruling rejecting such legal protections in the 3rd Circuit, meaning the issue is likely to be ultimately resolved by the Supreme Court.