International refugees seeking asylum in America can be deported to their home countries even when they face a risk of torture or death, the nation's highest court has ruled.
The US Supreme Court on yesterday told federal judges not to second-guess US immigration officials when they seek to kick a refugee out of the country because of past violent crimes committed against civilians.
International law experts, including the United Nations' commissioner for refugees, see the decision as undermining international humanitarian protections for refugees. They are concerned it will have an impact far beyond US borders by encouraging other countries to adopt the tougher US standards.
Other legal experts view the decision as sending a strong statement that the US will not be a haven for anyone who deliberately takes violent action against civilians, no matter how "just" their overall cause may be.
The court's unanimous decision draws a bright line between the more permissive international legal standard and the much tougher standard in the US.
The ruling means that Juan Anibal Aguirre-Aguirre, a former student activist, must be deported to Guatemala even though he says it will deliver him into the hands of political enemies there. He fled to the US in 1993 after organizing violent antigovernment demonstrations in which civilian bus riders and store owners were attacked.