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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A legal ruling that would send 28 detained immigrant mothers and their children back to Latin America despite their claims they face persecution upon return was upheld on Monday by a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied asylum to the women from Honduras, Guatemala and Ecuador, saying their fears they would face violence at home were “not credible.”

Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote in the decision that the justices were “sympathetic to the plight” of the petitioners, but he added that since the women arrived in the United States “surreptitiously” they were not entitled to constitutional protections.

The women came over the U.S. border in Texas but are being held at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania, said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt, who represented the families.

“The decision is wrong as a matter of history and precedent, and if left intact, will be the first time in the history of the country that noncitizens on U.S. soil cannot obtain federal court review of the legality of their deportation,” Gelernt said in a statement.

The families plan to appeal, he said.

Government attorney Joseph Darrow, representing the federal agencies, said he was unable to comment.

An email seeking comment from a Department of Justice spokesman wasn’t immediately returned Monday.

The residential center where the women are being held, in Leesport, about 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has been under contract with immigration authorities since 2001. It’s one of three such facilities nationwide. The other two are in Texas.

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