A group of women and children from Central America who have been prioritized for deportation lost a legal battle Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal of a lower court’s ruling that prevented a federal judge from reviewing their expedited deportation orders.
The families were detained in Texas soon after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. They claimed asylum, but immigration judges ruled they lacked “credible fear” of persecution. They were placed in expedited removal proceedings and detained at a residential center in Pennsylvania, Reuters reports.
Expedited removal applies to non-citizens without valid documents for entry to the U.S.
The legal challenge claimed violation of the women and children’s right to due process under the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court let stand a ruling from the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
The families are composed of 28 women and 33 children ages 2-17 come from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The lead plaintiff in the case, Rosa Castro, fled El Salvador to escape rape, beatings and emotional abuse by her son’s father. Her son was six years old when they arrived in the U.S. In 2015. Another plaintiff, Lesly Cruz, fled Honduras to protect her daughter from sexual assault from gang members, court papers said.
Other families said they had fled to the U.S. to escape threats, violence and situations where police authorities were unable or unwilling to help them.
Twelve women and their children remain detained in Pennsylvania, while the others have been released under supervision.
Tens of thousands of Central American refugees and migrants enter the U.S. each year. Their numbers included a 2014 surge of nearly 70,000 unaccompanied minors.
Immigration enforcement has been ongoing in the U.S., but it has taken on more prominence under the Trump administration, which has planned to target more people for expedited removal.
In May 2016, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, then-chair of the U.S. bishops’ immigration committee, criticized immigration raids.
“Sending women and children back to Central America will not serve as an effective deterrent to migration because this is a humanitarian crisis and individuals from the region are being forced to flee for their lives,” he said.
In February 2017, the U.S. and Mexican bishops issued a joint statement on the right to migrate.
“We reiterate our commitment to care for pilgrims, strangers, exiles, and migrants affirming that all persons have a right to live in conditions worthy of human life. If these are not given, they have a right to migrate,” they said, citing Pope Pius XII’s 1952 apostolic constitution “Exsul Familia Nazarethana.”