Seeking Asylum from Friendly Countries

by Jason Dzubow on February 21, 2013

in Asylum Seekers

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A couple of recent articles got me thinking about how the U.S. handles asylum seekers coming from countries that we view as friends–Western-style democracies that generally respect human rights.

The first is an article from the Jewish Daily Forward (featuring a quote from my esteemed law partner, Todd Pilcher) about asylum seekers from Israel. The article found that 18 Israeli nationals sought asylum in Fiscal Year 2011. The article found that the asylees were a “strange and quirky mix:”

One, an Arab citizen of Israel, is a gay man who convinced authorities he would face violence from his own family and tribe if forced to return to Israel. Lack of adequate action by Israeli police played a role in the approval of the request, his attorney said. Another is an Israeli woman who suffered domestic abuse. She also received asylum after making the case that Israeli authorities were not protecting her. Yet a third is the son of a founder of Hamas who, after spying on the terrorist-designated group for Israeli authorities, felt unsafe under Israeli protection and fled to the United States in fear for his life [I wrote about this case here].

German citizens react to the news that one of their own has received asylum in the U.S.

German citizens react to the news that one of their own has received asylum in the U.S.

The second article is a follow-up on a homeschooler family that received asylum from Germany.  In that case, an Immigration Judge found that the family faced persecution in Germany after they refused for religious reasons to send their children to public school, as required by German law. The Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the IJ’s decision last May, and the homeschoolers filed a petition for review and a brief with the Sixth Circuit. The case is currently pending.

Other “Western” countries listed as source countries for asylum seekers in the U.S. include Argentina (9 people granted asylum in FY 2011), Brazil (20 people), Germany (4), Latvia (6), New Zealand (5), Poland (6), and the United Kingdom (8). These numbers are pretty small given the total of 24,988 people granted asylum in FY 2011, but such cases raise some interesting questions.

First, how do the source countries feel about a decision from the U.S. government that they are persecuting (or, at best, failing to protect from persecution) their own citizens? When asked by the Forward, an Israeli diplomat said that the scarcity of asylum cases in the United States did not require the Israeli government to bring up the issue with Washington. The official added that the few cases in which Israelis were granted asylum in America represented “unusual circumstances” and did not reflect on Israel’s democracy. I’d bet that like the Israelis, most Western democracies see these asylum cases as aberrations and aren’t particularly bothered by them. One country that is annoyed by our State Department’s practice of evaluating the human rights situation in other countries is China. In “retaliation” for our report, China issues its own report, which describes a litany of human rights abuses in the United States.

A related issue is whether–if the number of asylum cases form a particular allied country increased–that country could raise the issue diplomatically in order to curtail asylum grants. Theoretically, asylum should be independent of politics, but the Forward article raises the example of Israeli conscientious objectors who received asylum in Canada. Apparently, “Canada has approved dozens of asylum requests from individuals claiming political persecution by Israel since 2000.” According to the Forward, in 2006, the Israeli government protested Canada’s asylum policies. And in the past two years the number of Israelis receiving asylum in Canada has declined. If this is correct, and the decline in asylum grants is related to the Israeli protest, it raises serious concerns about the integrity of the Canadian asylum system.

Another question raised by these asylum cases is, how the heck do you get granted asylum from a country like New Zealand or the UK? My guess is that these cases involve very special circumstances, like victims of human trafficking who have not received adequate protection, or maybe sexual orientation cases where the person was subject to severe abuse. Another possibility is that the Immigration Judge and the DHS attorney agreed to grant asylum in order to address an otherwise inequitable situation. For example, I once had a case where my client was convicted of an aggravated felony. She had been here for many years, had a family with a special needs child, and it was obvious that the only reason for her conviction was the incompetence of her criminal lawyer (her crime was very minor). Although it was pretty clear that she did not qualify for withholding of removal, the IJ would have granted relief to resolve the situation. Unfortunately, the DHS attorney did not agree. Had the attorney agreed, the client would have received relief, even though she really did not qualify. Maybe something similar is happening in some of the asylum cases at issue here.

Asylum cases from Western democracies are relatively rare. But there are enough such cases to help prove the adage, no country is safe for everyone all the time.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

william cagliostro December 22, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Any help is greatly appreciated in helping me to find a new country to start life over in.I refused to sell my condo on Anna Maria Island Florida U.S.A. to a wealthy man named Mark from Alburn New Hampshire and soon after that my wonderful life turned into a nightmare.My life was threatened,my vehicles towed away,a structure was built in front of my view of the gulf of mexico on Manasota Key,he bought all the condos around me at Island get away condo complex on Anna Maria Island then bought the condo attached to mine at my other condo on Manasota Key Florida,he filed 3 law suits against me that a lawyer told me are frivlious and were designed to make me sell,I was harassed by his attorneys and one of them named [redacted] had worked for me and the Island get away condo association.I was told this is against Florida bar rules but it does no good to keep reporting his attorneys to the bar because I had already reported my attorney [redacted] to the bar to working in his favor.My banker said he extorted money from me and I should report him to the bar.I was pressured into paying assesments and H.O.A. fees that were unjust and inflated so that I could keep my condo.To date I have hired 3 different attorneys and all worked in his favor.The condo management company in Sarasota florida run by [redacted] told me all the fees will keep going up so I should sell to Mark.I disputed paying a roof assessment that was inflated and included a custom deck over the Marks roof and [redacted] stated if Mark wants a gold plated roof I must pay for it because that’s the way the law reads.I left my country seeking asylum.I first went to Thialand hoping my attorney would get justice for me.I then went into Bali and indoneasia.I bought a one way ticket into Tahiti hoping to get asylum but was detained in New Zeland and told I must buy a ticket out to the US or I will not like what will happen to me.I went to Dominika seeking asylum.I spoke with [redacted] in Dominika goverment and begged for asylum but only got the run around.I visited many other islands but decided they were not a good place to start life over.I went to St. Thomas seeking medical and legal help but help has ben very difficult to find with the exception of my wonderful church family at the house of refuge.I have been attacked twice here in ST Thomas.The last time I was robbed while sleeping in the gazebo in amansapation park.I was beaten in the head with a metal object and my computers and important papers with evidence were taken.If I don’t find help soon I will find a way to leave this island and continue to seek a safe place to start life over.In early sepetember of this year 2015 his attorneys took my condo away on Anna Maria Island.They claimed I did not pay the unjust inflated lien claims that I paid and my attorney [redacted] quit so they got a default judgment even though I hiered another attorney named [redacted] to fight it and I offered Judge [redacted] to pay the unjust inflated lien claim again but my offer was ignored.I tied to get a restraining order against this man but judge [redacted] denied it and my attorney [redacted] said after listening to the court hearing that I was set up for the slander suit against me by [redacted]. Judge [redacted] told me I could speak only yes or no answers during my hearing and when they produced false evidence against me in the form of a modified document I produced the original document and the judge gave them back the false modified document.When I requested that document after the hearing I was refused a copy of it.My attorney who quit [redacted] and the man from Albaurn New Hampshire who took away my condo now control my assets and prevent me from selling or making money from they. [redicted] has all my deeds and titles and will not return them to me.I beg anyone who may be able to help me get justice from the corrupt legal system in florida please help before I run out of money or possibly get attacked again.I do not use phones or computers much anymore because of all the harassment but I can be contacted through my wonderful church family on St Thomas Island called the house of refuge.Please,please I beg for mercy and help.Thank you for taking time to read my story I wish all a peaceful and blessed day.William

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Jason Dzubow December 23, 2015 at 12:45 am

I wish you good luck. I redacted the names in your comment, as I do not allow unsubstantiated accusations on this website.

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Kim May 28, 2015 at 5:26 pm

We are a Canadian family in a dire situation. Before I lay it out, let me stress that I have documentation (including certified court transcripts and medical reports) to prove what I say. I am a single mother of five children, one extremely special needs. Child Protective Services (Alberta) has been after us for ten years. They have apprehended my children twice, filed for TGO and PGO, etc. both times the judge said the Department had engaged in child endangerment, medical neglect, harassment, racism (terrible things were said about us being Jewish) and various other “abuses of fundamental human rights”. It has been made very clear in court that I have never abused or neglected my children. The judges have said they cannot, legally, issue any restraining or no-contact orders against the Department and that I will just have to continue fighting every time they take my kids. My special needs daughter has been physically and psychologically harmed by all of this. Is there much chance we may qualify for protection elsewhere? I’m afraid to even apply as I know the Department will take my children again the second they find out. I cannot afford a direct flight to Germany, which is where we want to be but I DO have a job offer there. If I take the job and we have residency THEN something else comes up can we apply from within Germany?

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Jason Dzubow May 28, 2015 at 10:04 pm

To apply for asylum, you generally need to be in another country. You cannot apply if you are in your home country. You may want to seek legal assistance in Canada before you move to another country. Good luck, Jason

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bheim August 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I know this is your website and all, but you didn’t need to delete my comment. It’s as if you only want people to see you answering questions and helping other lawyers. If you didn’t like my comment or question regarding me spending life on probation and trying to seek asylum in another country, with a credible fear of ending up in prison for something that in most countries is legal, you maybe could have said that you simply didn’t know. People spending their life on probation is maybe something you could help fight to change. With only 2% sex offender recidivism rate I would think that more lawyers could practice sex offender reform and rights law and still be able to sleep at night. Maybe you could point me in the right direction of someone that can help me… Thanks for hearing me

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Jason Dzubow August 29, 2013 at 6:22 am

I did not delete your comment, and – if I remember correctly – I responded to it. In general, people who are prosecuted for a crime (as opposed to persecuted on account of one of the five protected grounds) are not eligible for asylum. However, where the prosecution becomes so severe that it crosses the (fuzzy and imaginary) line into persecution, they might have a claim for asylum. I do not know of resources overseas for seeking asylum; you would need to contact lawyers or NGOs in the country where you want to ask for asylum.

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Bishop August 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm

One UK asylum seeker is former intelligence agent Andrea Davison and she gives a full report of why she is a refugee in her report to the Macur Review on chiuld abuse which you can read here http://macurstatement.blogspot.com

Western Countries are no-longer havens of Human Rights

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Daniel roberts June 14, 2013 at 9:19 am

Hi there,
I am planning on seeking asylum in the US due to stuff happening in my life in the UK, I am being discriminated by my sexuality and threats have been made towards me, Is it better o seek asylum while in the US or is it doesn’t make much different if I apply while i’m in the UK? I want the best available advice as I am being 100% serious. I could give all the information to anyone who is willing to give me advice.

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boureima May 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm

hi, i have a asylum pending status and i want to go to school, do anyone knows if i will be allow to pay as resident ?

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Jason Dzubow May 13, 2013 at 3:30 pm

You should speak with the school, as policies seem to vary from one school to the next. Good luck! Jason

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John Franklin March 29, 2013 at 11:40 am

I recently saw the US listed as a source country in refugee statistics in Latin America, and I set about looking it up – I can’t remember the persons’ names, but one successful refugee in Ecuador and another in Costa Rica–as well as an additional case in the Netherlands–were women who had fled abusive relationships where US courts had, inexplicably, granted full custody to the abusive partner (who was potentially abusing the kids?) and in any case the US justice system seemed disinterested in providing legal recourse, so they took the kids and fled. The abusive parent reported the kidnapping and the parent who fled was wanted for kidnapping in the US. I think one of the two Latin America cases was still pending.

@Wendy – I think you might be conflating a few things – refugee law looks at both country of nationality and country of habitual residence, and has to examine state protection provided by any and all nationalities the person holds. The people you are describing may be de facto stateless, as in, not recognized as a national by any country, often but not exclusively in situations such as you describe, where parents of one nationality have children in a country that recognizes only jus sanguinus and not jus solis, i.e. not granting citizenship through birth on the territory of that country as the US does. Stateless people can be refugees as well, but it’s generally a completely separate category of people.

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Wendy Lyon February 22, 2013 at 2:34 am

I don’t know if this is the case for refugee law, but for immigration purposes generally the US categorises people by country of birth rather than country of citizenship. So perhaps those “UK” and “New Zealand” cases were people who were born in those countries of (say) Iranian parents, but were not entitled to citizenship of those countries or to residency on any other grounds.

In the past there would have been some UK citizens granted asylum in the US on account of the Troubles, but that probably wouldn’t explain any of the 2011 cases.

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Jason Dzubow February 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

Hi Wendy – Thank you. I did not know that they listed people that way, and it certainly could explain some of the cases.

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SB February 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Do you know of succesful US asylum seekers abroad? I have only heard of failed applicants, e.g.:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_and_Iraq_War_resisters
http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/RRTA/2011/671.html

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Jason Dzubow February 22, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hi SB – There are a few examples listed in an article in the Guardian. There is a link to that article (and a quote about US asylum seekers) here: http://www.asylumist.com/2010/10/25/american-citizens-seek-asylum-in-great-britain/

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Cara February 21, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Really interesting article Jason! Enjoyed reading it! Would love to know more about the asylum cases from the UK and New Zealand!

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