[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday held that the REAL ID Act of 2005 (RIDA) [PDF, text; JURIST news archive] gives a "reasonable opportunity" for judicial review to those aliens whose removal orders became final before RIDA entered into effect. Prior to RIDA's enactment, aliens convicted of crimes in the US could request judicial review through habeas corpus petitions [28 USC s. 2241 text], which were not subject to time restraints. Under the terms of RIDA, though, such aliens can only obtain review by filing petitions with a federal court of appeals within 30 days after the court issues a final order of removal. The Ninth Circuit held [PDF, opinion]
RIDA fundamentally changed the system of judicial review for criminal aliens, withdrawing habeas corpus from the district courts and restoring jurisdiction in the courts of appeals. Congress did not, however, amend the 30-day timely filing requirement, indicating that Congress still expected aliens to act quickly to preserve their rights.
Initially drafted after the Sept.11, 2001 attacks and designed to discourage illegal immigration, RIDA attempts to make it more difficult for terrorists to fraudulently obtain US driver's licenses and other government IDs by mandating that states require birth certificates or similar documentation and also consult national immigration databases before issuing IDs. After controversy and strenuous opposition from civil libertarians [FindLaw commentary], it finally passed in 2005 [JURIST report] as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations defense spending bill. State lawmakers have previously expressed concern [JURIST report] about possible problems expected to accompany the implementation of RIDA, fearing that they would not be able to comply with the law's requirements before the May 2008 deadline. In March 2007, Homeland Security responded to these concerns by extending the deadline for compliance by 18 months. All states have since been granted compliance extensions [JURIST reports].