Under INA § 235(b), an alien who appears at the border and claims asylum or expresses a fear of persecution must be interviewed. The Refugee Protection Act would require DHS to record these interviews.
Currently, asylum interviews at the border (or the airport) are generally not recorded. As a result, there are often disputes about what the alien said at the interview. For example, I worked on a case recently where an Ethiopian asylum seeker entered the United States at the Mexican border. He was immediately detained and requested asylum. His friend and traveling companion served as my client’s interpreter. The Border Patrol agent wrote down the client’s responses to the agent’s questions. The written statement was not consistent with my client’s statements in court, and the IJ found the client’s testimony incredible; she denied asylum. On appeal, the BIA reversed and remanded the case for, among other things, a more thorough examination of what happened at the border. Had the border conversation been recorded, the IJ could have more definitively determined whether an inconsistency existed, and could have made a more accurate credibility determination.
IJs often rely on prior inconsistent statements to make adverse credibility findings, and I have worked on a number of cases where prior statements were used for impeachment purposes. Such statements are often not recorded (neither the Border Patrol nor the Asylum Office records interviews). Thus, the accuracy of the prior statements is frequently an issue. If the interviews were recorded, we would have a more accurate record, and hence, more accurate credibility determinations. The RPA provides for recorded interviews at the border. It should also provide for recorded interviews at the Asylum Office.