It can be a terrible thing to fear for one’s life or be persecuted in one’s own home country, and many people in Georgia can sympathize with those who are in such plights. For these reasons, many refugees choose to leave their country of origin and seek asylum in the U.S. However, being granted asylum is not always as straightforward as it should be.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that provides asylum seekers with greater access to U.S. courts if their claim for asylum is initially rejected. In 1996, a law was passed by Congress in which those seeking asylum who failed their initial screening for eligibility at the border could be deported without having a formal hearing to appeal the decision before a judge.

But, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that these quick deportations were unconstitutional. The judge determined that per the U.S. Constitution, individuals deprived of liberty, such as asylum seekers whose claims were rejected, must have the chance to appear before a federal court to argue their case. A previous Supreme Court ruling also stated that individuals must be granted a “meaningful opportunity” to show that the law was wrongfully applied. Asylum seekers who were deported without a hearing before a judge were not granted this opportunity, and thus their deportation was unconstitutional.

This is a complex area of law, but it is an important victory for asylum seekers. When a person fears credible harm or persecution in their home nation, they should have the opportunity to present their case to the court. This recent ruling is one step in the process of ensuring this will happen. Of course, readers who want to know more about how this ruling applies to their specific situation are encouraged to seek legal advice not provided by this post.