Human Rights First Decries Erosion of Protections for Asylum-Seekers in Supreme Court Ruling
WASHINGTON – In its decision today in Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam, a majority of the Supreme Court ruled that asylum seekers placed in expedited removal proceedings upon presenting themselves at the border, or very shortly after crossing the border, cannot challenge in federal court summary decisions denying them the right to apply for refugee protection. Human Rights First is deeply concerned at this erosion of rights and options for people seeking asylum in the United States, which comes at a time when the Trump administration has been actively working to undermine the already limited procedural protections afforded to asylum seekers in the expedited removal process. The administration has also made the process of establishing asylum eligibility increasingly difficult for a broad range of asylum claimants, at all levels of the process.
There is, in fact, a troubling circularity in the Supreme Court majority’s opinion, which points to the denial of asylum claims by the immigration courts as indicative of a need to deport many asylum-seekers without giving them a day in court — any court. In its experience representing asylum-seekers, both in credible fear interviews and full asylum adjudications, Human Rights First is seeing an increasing rate of denial, or summary rejection, of claims that should qualify for protection under U.S. and international refugee law. While the Supreme Court majority cited a 77% credible fear pass rate, its statistics are outdated: the credible fear pass rate dropped to 37% in Fiscal Year 2020, and grant rates in immigration court have also decreased sharply, although the characteristics of persons seeking asylum have not changed.
Regulations the administration has now proposed to rewrite decades of asylum law would make this problem vastly worse, barring from protection people fleeing persecution based on their gender, redefining political persecution in terms both narrow and incomprehensibly written, and erecting a multitude of other barriers to refugees. These moves raise a host of serious legal issues with life-or-death consequences for many of the refugees they affect. With the Supreme Court’s decision, arriving or recently arrived asylum seekers facing summary deportation at the border have no forum to challenge wrong decisions, which in turn increases the likelihood that wrongful deportations will continue to increase.