HIAS Alarmed by Third Circuit Ruling Denying Constitutional Protections to Asylum Seekers

WASHINGTON—This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a ruling that would send 28 Central American asylum-seeking mothers and their children back to the countries from which they fled. The majority of the women, along with their children, are being detained in Berks County, Pennsylvania while seeking safety from perilous situations in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. In a decision authored by Judge D. Brooks Smith, the women were denied constitutional protections related to access to the courts in the United States.
Rather than being permitted to apply for asylum protection in the U.S., the Court’s decision leaves these women legally and physically vulnerable. The women involved in the case remain confined to a fast-track process, called "expedited removal," to decide whether they have a credible fear of persecution. The Third Circuit actually ruled that the courts have no jurisdiction ruling on the fate of such asylum seekers.
In response to Monday’s ruling, HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield issued the following statement:
“This ruling sets a dangerous precedent for the legal protections afforded to non-citizens. Individuals seeking asylum, no matter how they arrived here, should not be deprived of the right to assert their need for protection and challenge the lawfulness of their deportation.  If the United States is permitting asylum seekers even fewer constitutional protections than Guantanamo detainees, either the Supreme Court must act or Congress and the Administration must develop a new statutory framework. This is a matter not only of liberty, but of life and death."

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