Circuit Court Rules in Favor of Asylum-Seeker

Credit: AndreyPopov

(Español) A federal court recent ruling allows asylum-seekers greater opportunity to have their asylum cases heard. The ruling from the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that previous provisions of a 1996 law passed by Congress were unconstitutional. The law dramatically limited an asylum-seekers access to U.S. courts should they want to challenge a negative decision made by an immigration judge or asylum officer. With the current administration’s recent attempts to discourage people coming to the United States to seek asylum, this ruling will inhibit their ability to quickly deport asylum-seekers for failing an initial asylum interview at the border.

The previous standard was for an asylum seeker to turn themselves into authorities at the border and ask for asylum. From there, they would typically be interviewed by an officer and the officer makes a decision as to whether the asylum-seekers claim is “credible” to his basis of fear. While an asylum-seeker can still petition for asylum with a negative credible fear interview, the already steep climb becomes near insurmountable when fighting the asylum case before an immigration judge.  

In the unanimous decision, the 9th circuit judges decided that the “meager procedural protections” in place for asylum-seekers compounded with the 1996 law meant asylum-seekers were offered little to no recourse in appealing an asylum rejection to a federal court. With this ruling, which is expected to be appealed by the administration, potentially thousands of asylum-seekers would earn the right to have their cases heard in the federal system. The 9th circuit court reached their decision through the “Suspension Clause” in the U.S. Constitution, stating that the clause “gives people…broad power to seek habeas corpus review by the courts,” further citing a 2008 Supreme Court decision which states a person must have “meaningful opportunity” to prove how a law was applied in error.