The Asylum Affidavit, Part 3: TMI

by Jason Dzubow on October 11, 2012

in Asylum Seekers

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This is the final (and much delayed)  installment in a series about preparing a client’s asylum affidavit.  I previously wrote about the importance of including enough detail to support a claim.  Today I want to discuss how to provide details about sensitive topics, like rape or the murder of a loved one.

Immigration Judges love reading well crafted affidavits.

For obvious reasons, most asylum applications involving discussing unpleasant events.  However, some events are more unpleasant than others.  For example, I worked on a case where my client witnessed the murder of her mother and siblings during a genocide in her country.  At the time of these murders, my client was just 11 years old.  In another case, a client was arrested while returning from a political rally.  While she was in custody, two policemen raped her.  In a third case, my client quit his political party and, in a revenge attack, he was shot six times and left for dead.

This is pretty horrific stuff, so how do you present these event in a credible manner without forcing the clients to re-live their trauma?

First, I think it is helpful if the client understands why he needs to explain the painful aspects of his case.  I am no expert, but I believe that when a client is educated about the requirements for asylum, he feels more in control of his case and this might make it easier for him to talk about past trauma. 

Second, it is important to establish a rapport with the client so she feels comfortable and safe discussing difficult issues.  While this may seem like a no-brainer, it is often difficult for busy attorneys to spend the extra time our clients need to make sure they are comfortable.

Third, it is often not necessary to provide a lot of detail about a traumatic event in order to establish past persecution.  For example, in my case–where the political activist was raped by the police while returning from a demonstration–we provided details about her political involvement, the demonstration, and her detention.  When it came to the actual rape, we stated that the police raped her, but we provided no further details about the incident.  If she has established her credibility and the fact finder believes that she has been raped, that is enough to prove past persecution.  USCIS has some good training materials for Asylum Officers, which discuss this point:

The asylum officer can elicit sufficient detail to establish credibility and gain an understanding of the basis of the claim without probing too deeply into all the details of a painful experience.

This is a key point–it is not necessary to provide all the details about an event like a rape.  The fact that the person was raped is, in-and-of-itself, sufficient to show past persecution.

Finally, and to their credit, Asylum Officers, DHS Trial Attorneys, and Immigration Judges tend to be very sensitive to an alien’s trauma.  I tell my clients about this, as I believe it helps reduce the level of intimidation and makes it easier for them to discuss their history.

While it is probably not possible to prepare a case without discussing traumatic events to some extent, it is possible–and important–to minimize the secondary trauma our clients suffer while preparing their asylum applications.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

slave October 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Would you have any information regarding ex-offenders seeking political asylum due to the second class citizen status we have upon conviction for a criminal offense? I have absolute remorse for my conduct 26 years ago when I was a teenager, but now as an adult with a child to raise I am subjected to many forms of state-sponsored civil punishments which not only create barriers in my efforts to remain “free”, but also imposes significant burdens upon my daughter who must suffer the affects of state sponsored punishment for something I did a quarter century ago.
While in prison I attempted to be transferred to Germany under the Sentenced Persons Treaty, and submitted a petition to the Mexican Embassy denouncing my american citizenship which had already been removed under the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Const. My claim has always been that I am subjected to civil punishments forever due to a prior dated criminal transaction. For example, the state of Ohio uses the euphemism “collateral consequences of criminal conviction” to describe over 800 civil punishments or restrictions imposed against anyone convicted of a criminal offense albeit mainly felony offenses. These restrictions come in the form of being denied licensure/certification regulated by the state to perform any number of trades, occupations, or professions. Housing, social service assistance, education, driving privileges, etc., are all included as well. These restrictions exclude the ex-offender from the fundamental right to life as traditionally recognized in this country. It puts the ex offender in a second class category, similar to how slaves were treated before slavery laws were abolished.
Responsibility has been accepted for the commission of the offense and remorse is an everyday occurrence, but the constitution at the very least and just general human rights dictate that a person should not forever be persecuted for prior conduct, especially when such conduct is over a quarter century old.
If you have any suggestions or thoughts on this subject I would appreciate it and be interested.
Thank You

Jason Dzubow October 17, 2012 at 10:48 pm

I do not think you could get asylum for the problems you are describing. You might want to consult a criminal attorney. Sometimes it is possible to have old convictions pardoned and erased from your record.

slave October 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for the suggest, Mr. Dzubow, but the normal avenues are not available and even if I could obtain a pardon or some type of remedial relief it wouldn’t eliminate the blacklisting I’m subjected to due to my activism on the issue I described above.

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