Asylum-Seekers Entitled to Habeas Review

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 12, 2019 12:11 PM

You may stumble on Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam's name, but you should not forget it in immigration law.

In Thuraissigiam v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said asylum-seekers may challenge expedited removal orders by habeas petition. From coast to coast, news organizations reported it is as a decision with "sweeping implications."

It will certainly stall President Trump's efforts to speed up deportations. It will likely set up a day in the U.S. Supreme Court, too.

"Sweeping Implications"

Writing for a unanimous appeals panel, Judge A. Wallace Tashima said the administrative process violates migrants' constitutional right to fair hearings. They may ask federal judges to review removal orders to avoid persecution in their homelands.

"The historical and practical importance of this ruling cannot be overstated," said Lee Gelernt, who argued the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision has "sweeping implications." Asylum-seekers have had brief screenings, but no practical recourse if an administrative officer rejected their claim.

The appeals court decision may not last long either, however. The Third Circuit reached a contrary conclusion in 2016, and the Supreme Court may well decide to resolve the conflict.

Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam

Thuraissigiam, the plaintiff in the Ninth Circuit case, said he was beaten, lowered into a well, threatened with death, and suffocated until he lost consciousness. All that because he belonged to an ethnic minority in Sri Lanka.

He sought political asylum in the United States, and filed a habeas petition to challenge the expedited process. A federal judge dismissed his petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, but the appeals court reversed.

For now, Thuraissigiam is winning.

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