FAIR Asks EOIR to Violate the Law in Aunt Onyango’s Case

by Jason Dzubow on May 21, 2010

The Federation for American Immigration Reform is calling upon the Justice Department and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) to violate the law and make public the record in the recently-decided asylum case of President Obama’s aunt.  PR Newswire reports:

Today’s decision granting President Obama’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, political asylum provides a case study in how those seeking to evade U.S. immigration laws can manipulate the system, charged the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).  FAIR also demanded that the entire record of her case, which was rendered after years of delay and after Ms. Onyango refused to comply with a deportation order, be made public.

Judge Leonard Shapiro did not reveal the basis for his decision to grant asylum to Ms. Onyango and Ms. Onyango’s attorney has declared that his client wants to keep the decision confidential.  “Given Onyango’s relationship to the president, the American people have a right to know on what grounds Ms. Onyango’s asylum was granted,” [FAIR President Dan] Stein said.  “Illness and political turmoil in one’s homeland are not recognized as grounds for being granted asylum.  Defining asylum so broadly not only exceeds any reasonable interpretation of the law, but would make countless millions of people around the world eligible for asylum in the U.S.   Americans deserve to know whether the system worked.”

Of course Mr. Stein has no idea why Ms. Onyango was granted asylum, but that clearly did not stop him from forming an opinion.  Worse, his “demand” that the decision be made public directly contradicts the law.  From the EOIR Practice Manual:

Evidentiary hearings involving an application for asylum or withholding of removal (“restriction on removal”), or a claim brought under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, are open to the public unless the respondent expressly requests that the hearing be closed.  In cases involving these applications or claims, the Immigration Judge inquires whether the respondent requests such closure. 

Ms. Onyango has requested that the hearing be closed and that should be the end of the matter.  Confidentiality in asylum cases is important to protect asylum seekers and their families.  While there are legitimate issues to be raised concerning the asylum process, Mr. Stein’s “demand” demonstrates his callous disregard for the rights and safety of asylum seekers.   

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Dzubow May 24, 2010 at 8:50 pm

I appreciate FAIR’s comment. However, at best Mr. Stein’s statement is ambiguous about who should reveal the details of Ms. Onyango’s case to the public. If you were calling on Ms. Onyango to reveal the details of her case, you should have done that explicitly. When you say the American public has a “right” to know what happened, that–to me at least–implies that you are asking the government to reveal information; rights generally vest against the government, not against individuals. Further, while the issue you are raising–abuse of the asylum process–is legitimate, I disagree that singling out an individual case and calling on the asylee to reveal her record is an appropriate method of illustrating your point.


Sergi May 24, 2010 at 6:04 pm

FAIR doesn’t play “fairly”

“without an open record, the public is denied the ability to ensure that our immigration system is operating properly.”

It strikes me that FAIR’s cites its motivation as an “interest in the “public’s ability to ensure that our immigration system is operating properly”.

As long as people are leaving the country it appears FAIR feels the “system is operating properly?” When did FAIR inquire to make sure it was operating “properly” when aliens were dying in detention, or for that matter why US Citizens were being deported?


Federation for American Immigration Reform May 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

In rushing to disparage FAIR and label FAIR’s demand that the asylum hearing for President Obama’s aunt be open to the public as “callous,” Mr. Dzubow completely ignores whom FAIR was asking to release the records. FAIR is obviously aware of 8 CFR 1208.6 and other provisions regarding asylum confidentiality. FAIR is asking Ms. Onyango to open the records in her case for public analysis, not the immigration court. FAIR called for the records to be released, but Mr. Dzubow wrongly assumed that FAIR was requesting EOIR release those records.

Mr. Dzubow ignores the fundamental reason that the case should be open — without an open record, the public is denied the ability to ensure that our immigration system is operating properly. Such need should be obviated in a case like Ms. Onyango’s. Her case involves an applicant who was previously denied asylum and ordered deported, yet remained illegally in this country for six years while maintaining a residence in state-subsidized housing. She of course is also a relative of the sitting United States President and former United States Senator, Barack Obama.

Is the new norm in our immigration system going to be that a relative of someone in the federal government is granted asylum while the American public is shut out from the process entirely? Unfortunately, Mr. Dzubow is more interested in attacking FAIR than questioning why the public was shut out of a case carrying such national importance.


Jay S. Marks May 23, 2010 at 9:28 am

Great Blog and well said – the eugenicists in suits (see Southern Poverty Law Center’s expose on the Founder of FAIR http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/profiles/john-tanton
and the intermingling of FAIR’s board of directors with those of other expressly racist organizations, see http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/the-nativist-lobby-three-faces-of-intolerance)

who constitute FAIR intentionally ignore the law for the purposes of fanning the flames of racial and cultural division.

Thanks for this excellent blog and the important conversations it raises.


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