U.S. Supreme Court conservatives lean toward over rapid deportation

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority appeared sympathetic on Monday toward a bid by President Donald 's administration to reinforce its power to quickly deport illegal immigrants without court interference in a politically charged election-year case on one of 's signature issues.

The justices heard arguments in the administration's challenge to a lower court ruling that a Sri Lankan asylum seeker - a farmer named Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam - had a right under the U.S. Constitution to have his case reviewed by a federal court.

The court has a 5-4 conservative majority including two justices appointed by . Conservative justices signaled support for the administration while liberal justices appeared to back Thuraissigiam.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year concluded that in Thuraissigiam's case a federal law that largely stripped the power of courts to review quick deportations - known as expedited removal - violated a provision of the U.S. Constitution called the suspension clause.

The administration contended that the lower court's ruling would defeat the purpose of quick deportation and "impose a severe burden on the immigration system."

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The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Thuraissigiam, said the administration's arguments in the case, if accepted by the court, could be used to deport millions of other illegal immigrants in the United States without meaningful judicial review.

Thuraissigiam claimed that as a member of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka he was tortured over his political ties and subjected to beatings and simulated drowning.

Thuraissigiam fled Sri Lanka in 2016 and was arrested in 2017 just north of the border between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, near the San Ysidro port of entry. He was placed on track for expedited removal, a system dating back to 1996 that makes an exception for immigrants who can establish a "credible fear" of persecution or torture in their home country.

The justices also heard a separate case challenging similar restrictions on federal appeals courts to review the deportation of non-citizens who have committed criminal offenses, if their claims they would be tortured if returned to their home countries have been rejected. (Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

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