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Appeals court rules that immigrants may appeal denial of asylum

One of the most important issues in immigration law has been resolved, at least temporarily, by a recent decision of the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue is whether immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have the right to appeal the denial of their requests in federal courts. The court's decision turned on the constitutionality of a 1996 federal law that was intended to prevent such appeals.

The case arose when a native of Sri Lanka, who belonged to the ethnic minority Tamil, was arrested in Los Angeles shortly after arriving in this country. The man fled from Sri Lanka to Mexico and then entered the United States from Mexico. When he attempted to enter the United States, he was arrested by a border patrol officer 25 yards north of the border. The immigration officer who interviewed him after the arrest made a finding that the man lacked a credible fear of persecution in Sri Lanka, and his request for asylum was denied by an immigration judge. He has been detained in an immigration facility for two years.

The district dismissed the man's complaint, but the Ninth Circuit reversed the trial court. The court ruled that the 1996 federal law was unconstitutional because it improperly denied the right to seek a writ of habeas corpus. The right to seek a writ of habeas corpus can be suspended by the president only in times of rebellion or to protect public safety. Neither of these reasons were proved to the satisfaction of the court. The appellate court also found that the review of the man's status by ICE was a "cursory review" and not determinative of his eligibility for asylum.

The case will almost certainly reach the United States Supreme Court. Its fate before a panel that appears to include a majority of conservative judges cannot be predicted.

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Phone: 818-647-1002
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