It is a major victory for the government, which has been engaged in a 12-year-effort to deport the Palestinian nationals.
The aliens say they are victims of selective enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, and that they are being persecuted for fund-raising activities that should be protected by First Amendment rights. The 9th Circuit Court ruled in their favor.
However, the justices ruled the courts have no jurisdiction over the case and the Attorney General has the power to start the deportation process.
By an 8-1 vote Wednesday, the high court said that federal courts cannot handle most claims by aliens before a final judgment is made on deportations sought by immigration officials.
Then in a separate vote, a 5-4 majority ruled that selective-enforcement claims could almost never be raised to challenge a deportation, no matter the timing.
The Palestinians' lawyer, Georgetown law Professor David Cole, called the decision both sweeping and shocking, and said the decision limits all aliens' free-speech rights. "This remarkable holding ... is, indeed, a sad day for aliens in this country," Cole said.
Charles Hobson, a lawyer for the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, praised the decision. "As America faces a growing threat of terrorist acts, it has become critically important that our government be able to identify and quickly remove foreign nationals who encourage such acts from our midst," he said.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the court that "as a general matter ... an alien unlawfully in this country has no constitutional right to assert selective enforcement as a defense against his deportation."
Joining him in that conclusion were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.