The US flag flies behind a foreground of razor wire. Photo: iStock

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of Santa Ana, California, on Thursday refused to permit the deportation of 92 Cambodians before they have had a chance to challenge the move in court, Reuters reported.

Last October, U.S. immigration authorities conducted raids and arrested approximately 100 Cambodians, many of whom had fled the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. The Cambodians had been convicted of various criminal charges in the US, and their deportation was ordered years ago.

However, Cambodia refused to repatriate them, so they were released from immigration custody. Many worked at jobs until being re-arrested in October.

Carney ruled that 92 of the Cambodians still in custody could raise “serious questions” about the validity of their convictions and deportation orders.

The government said that during their supervised releases, the Cambodians knew they could be deported at any instant – a view Carney disputed.

“It is disingenuous for the Government to claim that throughout the many years that Petitioners were permitted to live and work on supervised release, they should not have built up any expectation that they would be permitted to remain in the country,” the judge wrote.

Amid the Donald Trump administration’s hard line on immigration, three other US judges have issued similar rulings, preventing the government from quickly deporting Indonesian, Iraqi and Somali immigrants who have long lived in the country.