Asylum-seekers in Arizona whose bid for asylum has been rejected on the grounds that they did not establish that they had a “credible fear” of returning to their home country may be able to appeal their rejection before an immigration judge. On March 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that denying asylum-seekers this right violates non-citizens’ constitutional rights.

The asylum-seeker in this case was a man from Sri Lanka who was part of the Tamil minority. Despite his assertion that his support of a Tamil politician resulted in his kidnapping and torture, an agent with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that he failed the “credible fear” standard. When the man sought to appeal it, he found that the only grounds for doing so were on technical errors that had to do with whether the person actually qualified for “expedited removal”.

Under federal law, asylum-seekers are not eligible to go before an immigration judge and argue their case for “credible fear“. According to the ACLU attorney involved in the case, asylum-seekers in eight other states in addition to Arizona will all be able to immediately ask for an appeal. However, it is anticipated that this could put a strain on the immigration court system since it already suffers from a significant backlog of cases.

People who are seeking asylum or who have been rejected and who are facing expedited removal may want to consult an attorney to discuss their rights and how this ruling might affect them. An attorney might be able to assist a person in making a case for remaining in the country. This could include gathering supporting documentation, completing paperwork and other tasks.

Source: USA Today, “Immigration asylum-seekers have a constitutional right to appeal, says court“, Alan Gomez, March 7, 2019