Federal Judge Asserts Jurisdiction Over Deportation

  • Nov 30 2017

A federal judge in Boston recently ruled that her court has jurisdiction to halt the deportation of a group of illegal immigrants living in New Hampshire. Chief U.S. District Judge Patti Saris issued an order directing immigration officials to delay the removal of 51 Indonesian Christians. The group of immigrants claim that is is too dangerous for them to return to their Muslim-majority homeland.

The Plight of the Indonesian Immigrants

The affected immigrants fled religious persecution in Indonesia two decades ago and have been living in the state under a deal arranged by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2010.

It is worth noting that the majority of the Indonesians originally entered the United States legally but overstayed their visas and subsequently failed to apply for asylum. Sen. Shaheen said the court made the right decision and the Indonesian immigrants deserved the opportunity to make their case to remain in their communities.

“Deporting these individuals will needlessly split families and communities, and put lives in danger. I’ll continue to make every effort to prevent these deportations so that the Indonesian community can continue to live peacefully in New Hampshire,” Shaheen said.

The Backdrop

Immigration officials began notifying the group this summer that they should prepare to leave the country within two months. The Indonesians challenged the deportation orders in the U.S District Court, claiming they would face persecution or violence for their faith and Chinese ethnicity if they were returned to their homeland.

In response to their their complaint, the federal government filed a motion to dismiss, claiming  that under the provisions of the Real ID Act, the court no longer had jurisdiction over the types of claims they were bringing.

Although federal law gives authority over immigration appeals to courts operated under the executive branch, other federal judges have ruled that U.S. district courts can intervene in deportation cases so that defendants have sufficient time to argue that conditions in their home countries have become too dangerous.

In September, Saris halted the deportation of the immigrants – who had been staying in the country under orders of supervision through an ICE  program. The judge has now given the group another reprieve and gone a step further in determining the court has the authority to intervene.

The government will likely challenge Judge Saris’ ruling to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, so the fate of the 51 Indonesian Christians remains uncertain at this time. However, prior case law in this regard may support their petition to remain in the country.

The Takeaway

In the end, this case highlights how the courts are continuing to intervene to protect the rights of immigrants in the face of policies that the Trump Administration is trying to implement. Nonetheless, anyone who has overstayed a visa and is facing deportation should speak to an knowledgeable immigration attorney with experience defending removal proceedings.

Posted in: Deportation Defense