Supreme Court rules in favor of immigrant who fears torture if deported to Lebanon

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The Supreme Court on Monday sided with a Lebanese immigrant facing deportation, saying he can challenge a ruling forcing him to back to his home country amid fear of being tortured.

Nidal Khalid Nasrallah was ordered to be removed from the U.S. after a guilty plea to receiving stolen property, but he applied for relief under the international Convention Against Torture (CAT) to keep from being sent to Lebanon.

Being of the Druze religion and claiming to have been tortured by Hezbollah in the past, he says he is afraid of being tortured again if he returned. Nasrallah was denied and a federal court said it could not review the decision, but the Supreme Court disagreed.

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The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Nasrallah was not allowed to make a factual challenge on appeal, because federal law limits what aspects of a removal order can be appealed. The Supreme Court made the distinction that the issue of CAT relief was separate from the deportation.

“The question in this case is the following: By precluding judicial review of factual challenges to final orders of removal, does the law also preclude judicial review of factual challenges to CAT orders? We conclude that it does not,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the court’s opinion.

“A CAT order is not itself a final order of removal because it is not an order ‘concluding that the alien is deportable or ordering deportation,’” Kavanaugh added, pointing out that if Nasrallah were to receive CAT relief, he would still be able to be deported to a different country.

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Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito that because the law says, “all questions of law and fact . . . arising from any action taken or proceeding brought to remove an alien . . . shall be available only in judicial review of a final order,” this includes all issues stemming from a removal proceeding.