Criminal Alien Bill Limits Appeals; Republicans Seek to Curb Increases in Litigation

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Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Key congressional Republicans introduced a bill yesterday to cut down the number and types of appeals available to criminal aliens before they are deported.

Currently, aliens who have committed major felonies have more chances to ask for judicial review, thereby delaying deportation, than an alien guilty only of overstaying a visa, the lawmakers said.

"We need to correct the absurdity of giving criminals more rights than noncriminals," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chief Senate sponsor of the bill.

"A lot of these people, they file appeals, they file for habeas, and then they blend into the community and are lost," he said.

The bill applies to aliens who have committed aggravated felonies. It would require them to exhaust the administration review process, including a final order of removal from the Bureau of Immigration Appeals. They can then have that decision reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and appeal that to the Supreme Court.

A 2001 Supreme Court decision gave criminal aliens the right to a district court habeas corpus petition, which requires authorities to show cause for holding a person. The justices' decision also grants the right to have a federal appeals court review the removal order.

The sponsors said that has resulted in an explosion of litigation, delaying criminals' deportation.

Mr. Hatch said that in 1995, 403 immigration habeas corpus petitions were filed, and 1,939 immigration cases were in federal courts. In 2003, by contrast, 2,374 habeas petitions were filed, and there were 11,906 cases in federal courts.

In the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, is sponsoring a companion bill, along with Rep. …