Court To Review Criminal Deportation

A replica 18th century wooden square rigger sails as 'The Zong,' past Tower Bridge on the Thames Thursday, March 29, 2007 in London. The voyage was part of recognition of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade act. The Zong was at the center of a court case in 1783 after 133 slaves were thrown overboard in an insurance scam. The resulting public outrage led to the rise of the Abolitionist movement.
GETTY IMAGES/Peter Macdiarmid
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to review two 1996 laws designed to restrict and speed up judicial review in cases involving aliens convicted of crimes in this country and ordered deported from the United States.

The high court said it will decide a pair of appeals, one by the federal government and one by three aliens challenging their deportation orders, on how much, if any, judicial review should be allowed in such cases.

The justices will hear arguments in April, with a ruling due by the end of June.

At issue are two laws, approved by Congress and signed by President Clinton: the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. They dramatically altered the government's treatment of aliens who commit crimes or face deportation for other reasons.

Previously, some aliens facing deportation for committing a crime could seek a waiver from the attorney general. The new laws barred such waivers for aliens convicted of aggravated felonies.

Secret Evidence Victim
Fights Deportation
The Palestinian university teacher who was jailed in Florida for more than three years on secret evidence is now facing deportation. Mazen Al-Najjar, who has lived in the U.S. for 19 years, spent 1,307 days in custody without being charged. Immigration and Naturalization Service lawyers described him to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as a terrorist and said evidence showed he transferred funds to the Syrian-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad group. He denies the charges.
The new laws said deportation orders must be reviewed in federal appeals courts rather than in "habeas corpus" proceedings in federal trial courts. And, the new laws said aliens convicted of aggravated felonies and drug crimes generally were not entitled to court review at all.

The cases granted review Friday included a government appeal seeking to deport a man from Haiti who pleaded guilty to a drug crime in Connecticut, and a separate appeal by three natives of the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Guyana who were ordered deported for drug crimes in New York state.

Immigration officials ordered all four aliens deported and said the new law barred them from seeking a waiver.

The Haitian man, Enrico St. Cyr, won rulings by a federal trial judge and the 2nd U.S. Ciruit Court of Appeals allowing him to seek a waiver because his crime occurred before the new law took effect. The other three aliens took similar arguments directly to the appeals court.

In each case, the 2nd Circuit court said that because the new law barred appeals court review of such issues, the alien could file a habeas corpus petition in federal trial court.

Denying all court review would "raise a serious constitutional question," the appeals court said in the St. Cyr case.

The government's appeal said the 2nd Circuit court ruling in that case "frustrates Congress' intent" to limit court review of criminal aliens' deportation proceedings.

Lawyers for the three other aliens said they agreed with the appeals court ruling so long as they could pursue their cases in federal trial court.

The cases are Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr, 00-767, and Calcano-Martinez v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 00-1011.

©MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters Limited contributed to this report