Citing the Beatles, Ninth Circuit Determines that Only the Attorney General Can Terminate Asylum

by Jason Dzubow on August 7, 2012

A few days before Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit ruled that only the Attorney General–not DHS–can terminate asylum.  In Nijjar v. Holder, No. 07-74054 (9th Cir. 2012), the Department of Homeland Security, through the Asylum Office, terminated Gurjeet Singh Nijjar’s asylum approval In Spite of All the Danger in his country. 

Mr. Nijjar received asylum in 1995, based on political persecution he claimed to have suffered in India.  Before he left India, he was advised to Run for Your Life.

The Beatles: Great music AND binding precedent.

In 2003, DHS notified Mr. Nijjar that it intended to terminate his asylum status for fraud and order him to Get Back to India.  DHS wrote that it had information indicating that Mr. Nijjar was in the United States at the time he claimed to have been Across the Universe being persecuted in India and that Every Little Thing about his case was false.  The DHS letter instructed Mr. Nijjar to Come Together for a termination interview with an asylum officer to see whether We Can Work It Out or whether they would tell him, Hello, Goodbye.  However, Mr. Nijjar was a Nowhere Man and failed to appear.  After he failed to Help himself, DHS terminated his asylum status and referred his case to Immigration Court.

After a Long and Winding Road, the IJ (a Woman) concluded that she did not have jurisdiction to review the termination and gave Mr. Nijjar a Ticket to Ride to India.  After She Said She Said he is deported, the BIA Let It Be.  Mr. Nijjar then filed a petition for review with the Ninth Circuit Like Dreamers Do.  There, he asked the Court to Please Please Me.

On review, three Ninth Circuit judges noted All Together Now that the regulations, 8 C.F.R. § 208, provide as follows–

[An] asylum officer [of the DHS] may terminate a grant of asylum . . . if following an interview, the asylum officer determines that… There is a showing of fraud in the alien’s application such that he or she was not eligible for asylum at the time it was granted.

The problem, however, is that the statute (the INA) does not give DHS the authority to issue such regulations–

Congress [a/k/a The Fools on the Hill] did not confer the authority to terminate asylum on the Department of Homeland Security. Congress conferred that authority exclusively on the Department of Justice.

Congress expressly provided that “the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Attorney General may grant asylum . . . .” But the subsection governing termination of asylum is not parallel, and does not say that either cabinet department may terminate asylum. The “termination of asylum” subsection of the statute says that asylum “may be terminated if the Attorney General determines” that any of several conditions are met.

The Government attorney countered that Because the Asylum Office had the power to grant asylum, it must also have the power to take asylum away Any Time at All.  The Court called this argument “euphonious but not logical,” and held that popular songs are full of euphonious lyrics that make false statements, such as the Beatles’ lyrics:

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known,
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown,
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant
to be…

In other words, don’t Ask Me Why, but “there is no general principle that what one can do, one can undo.”  Because the statute specifically gives DHS and DOJ the power to grant asylum, but only DOJ the power to terminate asylum, the Court concluded that only the Attorney General can terminate asylum.  The regulations allowing DHS (through the Asylum Office) to terminate asylum are invalid.

I Want to Tell You, the Ninth Circuit’s logic seems sound.  I Imagine that unless Congress changes Something in the statute, future asylum terminations by the Asylum Office will face strong challenges from asylees Here, There and Everywhere.  Rather than waste resources litigating this issue Helter Skelter every time the government seeks to terminate, I’m Down with the regulations being amended to reflect the statute–only DOJ has the power to terminate an asylum grant.  In the future, when DHS wants to declare The End of an alien’s asylum status, it will need to issue a Notice to Appear, and then allow the IJ to make the initial decision concerning termination.  Dig It?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth Spivack August 9, 2012 at 8:53 am

“I want to tell you,” when you were “stating your point of view,” your blog referencing Beatles was “guaranteed to raise a smile.” You are definitely “speaking words of wisdom.” “ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT”


Cynthia August 7, 2012 at 9:16 am

I love it. In the words of Tiny Tim…”More Please”


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