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July 1998, Volume 5, Number 7

Courts Block Quick Removals

The US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that may clarify the constitutionality of the IIRIRA provision that limits the right of foreigners to appeal INS deportation orders. The INS has been trying since 1987 to deport eight foreigners who are members or supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, including seven Palestinians and the Kenyan-born wife of one of them. The eight asked a federal judge to stop the deportation proceeding, saying they were victims of selective INS enforcement. The judge in 1994 agreed to their request.

In 1996, the Anti-Terrorism law made it a felony for anyone -- citizen or noncitizen -- to provide financial support to a foreign organization labeled terrorist by the US secretary of state; the PFLP has been labeled a terrorist organization. IIRIRA also said that deportation cases can be taken to federal appeals court only after the INS has issued a final order.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997 said that the Anti-Terrorism law was too broad, and that IIRIRA cannot prevent a federal judge from intervening in deportation orders. The government is appealing the 9th Circuit decision to the US Supreme Court: Reno vs. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, 97-1252.

On June 5, 1998, a federal judge temporarily barred the INS from deporting about 200,000 unauthorized foreigners, most in the US since 1982, who said they were discouraged from applying for amnesty in 1987-88 because the INS issued a rule that said "continuous residency" in the US between January 1, 1982 and 1987-88 made ineligible those who took extended trips home and later returned. Several class action suits were filed to challenge the INS rule, and this case consolidates them. Since the enactment of IIRIRA in 1996 limited the right of federal courts to review INS decisions, the case has twice been dismissed by an appeals court.

Patrick McDonnell, "INS Barred From Deporting Thousands of Illegal Immigrants," Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1998.