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Lately, I’ve been worrying that asylum might become a victim of its own success. Thanks to lawyers pushing the law, the number and categories of people eligible for asylum has increased pretty dramatically: Victims of FGM and domestic violence, LGBT individuals, certain victims of crimes. This is a good thing, as many lives have been saved. But it has started to attract the attention of immigrant restrictionists, who think the asylum system is too generous. Could the tide be shifting? Might we be on the verge of a backlash?

The Romans aren't all that popular this time of year.

The Romans aren’t all that popular this time of year.

There’s precedent for such fear dating back to antiquity. When the Roman Empire conquered Greece, the various city-states had a well-developed system of temple asylum. In short, if you were a slave fleeing abuse, you could go for protection to a Greek temple. Over time, the types of people who could claim protection in Greek temples expanded, so that basically anyone, including rebels and common criminals, could find refuge in a temple. The law-and-order Romans would have none of it. In 14 AD, Emperor Tiberius ordered the temples to produce evidence of their right to offer asylum. Most temples could not do so, and so Tiberius’s little bureaucratic maneuver essentially ended asylum in the Greek city-states. So much for the history lesson.

Late last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced that they would be holding hearings on asylum and credible fear “abuse” by people arriving in the U.S. via Mexico. The press announcement does not sound promising:

It’s outrageous that members of Mexican drug cartels and others involved in illicit activity are so easily able to exploit our asylum laws and live in the U.S. virtually undetected. Our asylum laws are in place to help individuals who are facing truly serious persecution in their countries. However, dangerous criminals are gaming the system by claiming they have a ‘credible fear’ of persecution when often they’ve been the perpetrators of violence themselves. Their claims almost always get rubberstamped by the Obama Administration and once these individuals are in the U.S., the illegal activity doesn’t stop. 

Unfortunately, it appears the Obama Administration is compromising our national security and the safety of our communities for its political agenda. The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing soon to closely examine this egregious abuse to see what can be done to put an end to it.

Over the last couple months, I’ve written pretty extensively about the influx of asylum seekers at the border, and there certainly seem to be issues that require attention. That’s why it’s disappointing to see such an overtly political description of the upcoming hearings. Hopefully, the hearings themselves will be more constructive (yes, for some reason, I am feeling unusually optimistic – maybe its The Season). 

Not that anyone has asked, but I thought I would raise some issues that the Committee might explore:

- We need accurate statistics about who is seeking asylum and why: It is very difficult to know who seeks asylum, who receives it, who receives other relief, and who is denied. One problem is that the two agencies that track asylum cases–DOJ and DHS–use different metrics for calculating their numbers. Another problem is that there are no stats available on people who receive Withholding of Removal and Torture Convention relief (two benefits that are similar, though inferior, to asylum). Congress should mandate better record keeping on asylum cases: Where do asylum seekers come from? What is the basis for their grants or denials? How many are detained? How many leave of their own volition after receiving a denial? How many are deported? How many cases are re-opened for fraud or due to criminal convictions? Such information will allow us to improve our policy-making and will hopefully lead to a better and more secure system.

- We need to make some decisions about how to treat asylum applicants at the borders: There has been a significant increase in asylum applicants arriving at our Southern border. Currently, most are detained and–if they pass a credible fear interview–they are released with a date to return to Immigration Court. I have not seen specific examples of individuals who have entered the U.S. in this manner and then committed bad acts. But given the number of arrivals, the possibility for this to happen seems pretty high. So do we detain these asylum seekers until their cases are heard? Such an approach makes it much more difficult for them to prepare their asylum cases. It is also very expensive. Should each person be fitted with an ankle bracelet or some other tracking device? If we had more accurate data about asylum seekers, perhaps we could better answer these questions.

- We must decide how to treat people fleeing persecution where that persecution is not based on a protected ground: Many people arriving at the Southern border face real harm from gangs, cartels, and criminals. Many others face serious harm due to sexual violence. Often, such people do not fall neatly into one of the five protected categories. Most will not qualify for lesser forms of relief, such as the Convention Against Torture. So what to do with them? Of course, we could simply deport them as we are not obligated by our international agreements to protect them. But sending innocent people to their deaths seems not in keeping with our national values (or any other notion of morality). Could something be done for such people without creating an incentive for everyone South of the border to come to the United States?

- We need to plan ahead to deal with a potentially large refugee flow from Mexico: For years, we’ve been hearing discussion about the possibility of large refugee flows from Mexico due to the violence there. If this happens, our current asylum system will likely not handle the volume. Perhaps we need a contingency plan for how to deal with such refugees. Faced with refugee crises, other countries have created temporary camps for people, where they can stay until it is safe to return (though often that takes decades or longer, and then there is no where to return to). Maybe such a model would be appropriate if the situation in Mexico deteriorates further. Or maybe some type of TPS would be more appropriate. In any case, it seems to me that we can start thinking about this now, so that we are more prepared in case of a humanitarian disaster. 

There is obviously more to say about these topics, but–since it is the season of miracles–I continue to hope that the Judiciary Committee will address these and other important issues related to our asylum system.

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The blog entry was originally posted on Wherever Magazine‘s website. It’s not uncommon for me to meet clients who have been victims of human trafficking. Most of them were trafficked from East Africa to the Arabian peninsula, and then to the U.S. as domestic servants. Occasionally, I also meet clients who were victims of sex trafficking. For this post, I combined several of my own cases and one publicly available case in order to illustrate the problem of modern day slavery:

Amelia was a promising twenty-something working as a teacher in her native Indonesia. After she lost her job due to religious and ethnic discrimination, she wanted to move some place safe. She began looking for ways to come to the United States.

The past isn't really past.

The past isn’t really past.

Through an ad, Amelia found a position in the restaurant industry in New York. An agency arranged her travel to the U.S., but when she reached JFK, things were not as expected.

Her “contact” met Amelia at the airport and immediately took her passport and other documents. Instead of bringing her to the promised job, he took her to a brothel. When she protested, her contact threatened Amelia with a gun.

For the next several months, Amelia was transported from one brothel to the next and forced to have sex with many different men. Her captors kept her under close watch at all times. 

Finally, one day, she escaped through an unlocked window. Even after she was free, Amelia knew no one in the United States and she did not know where to go for help. She lived on the street until she met someone who put her in touch with law enforcement.

Amelia was able to obtain a “T” visa—a special visa for victims of human trafficking, which allows an alien to (eventually) become a permanent resident of the United States. 

Except for the successful escape, Amelia’s story is quite typical. Social scientists estimate that there are currently about 27 million victims of human trafficking world-wide. But only a small fraction of those victims—about 40,000 people—are identified and helped each year. In the United States, as many as 200,000 children are currently at risk of sex trafficking. Most victims are trafficked within their own countries, but many people—like Amelia—are taken on long journeys from poor countries to more affluent countries, where they serve as sex slaves, domestic labor or agricultural workers.

According to U.S. government estimates, last year over 17,000 people were brought into the United States to serve as slaves.

As an attorney who represents asylum seekers, I sometimes meet victims of human trafficking. One common scenario involves women recruited to work as domestic servants in the Persian Gulf (most commonly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE). The women usually come from poor countries in Africa and are lured to the Gulf with promises of a decent wage and steady work.  

In one recent (and typical) case, my client Fatima had been detained and beaten in Ethiopia because of her political activities. She was also a victim of female genital mutilation. Fatima had to find a way out of her country. She went to an employment agency. The agency helped Fatima obtain a passport and found a job for her as a domestic servant in the United Arab Emirates. In July 2009, she left Ethiopia and started working for a family in the UAE. 

Work conditions and pay were not as promised. Originally, the agency told Fatima that she would be babysitting one child. When she arrived, she found that she would be babysitting three young children. In addition, she had to clean the house, cook, wash laundry, and tend to her employers’ guests. Fatima worked 20 hour days, and her employer banned her from speaking with other Ethiopian house servants. When she showed signs of being unhappy, the employer threatened to return her to Ethiopia. 

In August 2010, the employers announced that they would be going to Florida with the children for a six month vacation. Fatima would come with them. The U.S. government issued Fatima a visa for “personal and domestic employees” and she was on her way to America.

In the United States, Fatima continued as a domestic servant, but now her employer stopped paying her. She knew no one in Florida and had little opportunity to meet people outside her employers’ house. Finally, after five months as an unpaid, 140-hour a week domestic worker, she met some other Ethiopians in a park. They told her that she could seek political asylum in the United States. 

Fatima called her brother in Ethiopia, who put her in touch with some friends in Ohio. Those friends found someone in Florida to help. So early one morning, while her employers were sleeping, Fatima snuck out of the apartment, went to a rendezvous point and met her contact. She stayed with him for a few days until her brother’s friends arranged to bring her to Ohio and then Washington, DC.

In DC, Fatima filed for asylum. The case took several years, but finally, in September 2013, an Immigration Judge granted Fatima’s application for asylum. She has now begun her new life in the United States. 

Fatima and Amelia both escaped from their captivity. Most trafficking victims are not so lucky.

At least in Fatima’s case, the U.S. government could have done more to protect her. She received her visa without an interview at the U.S. Embassy. For domestic servants who come to the U.S., the embassies should interview each person (as they do for most other visa applicants) and ask about wages, hours, and working conditions. Where there is evidence of trafficking, visas for the workers and their employers should be denied, and the local authorities should be contacted. At least this would reduce the number of victims trafficked to the U.S. And once they are here, the employers of domestic workers should be required to verify (with evidence) that the domestic workers are receiving their salary, paying taxes, and working reasonable hours. Employers who do not comply with the law should have their visas revoked and should be prosecuted.

For trafficking victims in the U.S., there are resources available. The Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign raises awareness about the issue, and there are numerous NGOs, such as the Polaris Project, involved in the anti-trafficking fight. It will take the combined efforts of governments, non-profits, and individuals to identify and free victims of human trafficking, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

In this article, the names of the women and identifying details have been changed.

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America’s First Asylum Seekers

by Jason Dzubow on November 21, 2013

in Asylum Seekers

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As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it might be nice to look back at our country’s earliest–and strangest–effort to help asylum seekers. I’m not talking about the Pilgrims, who came here long before our nation’s independence. I’m talking about the French colony of Asylum, founded in 1793 on the shores of the Susquehanna River in northern Pennsylvania.

In those days, the United States and France enjoyed good relations, thanks in part to France’s key role during the American Revolution. When France’s own Revolution went bad, the United States was prepared to help refugees fleeing the guillotine—and to make a profit in the process.

 

...and that's why, even today, you can find good croissants in northern Pennsylvania.

…and that’s why, even today, you can find good croissants in northern Pennsylvania.

Several prominent Pennsylvanians were involved in forming the Asylum Company, which purchased land and began constructing large houses in the untamed wilderness. The largest house, called “la grande maison,” was 84 feet long and 60 feet wide. It had eight fireplaces. Supposedly, it was built for Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI (she of the “Let them eat cake” fame). Unfortunately, Marie Antoinette was executed by the Revolution before she could find asylum in the U.S.

A number of prominent exiles did manage to reach Asylum, including members of the French Royal Court, soldiers, and businessmen. The exiles tried to re-create their aristocratic life style in America, and they enjoyed music and plays, brandy and fine wine.  Ultimately, though, the idea of an aristocratic French Court in the Pennsylvania wilderness could not be sustained; the exiles yearned to return to France. One historian described the mood in Asylum:

As time went on [the French] grew to hate the work, the monotony, and the sordid hopelessness of their life at Asylum… Nostalgia had the colony in its grip.

Finally, Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in France and ended the Revolution. He invited all French exiles to return, and promised to restore their estates. The celebration in Asylum supposedly lasted for days, and most of the residents returned to France by 1802. The Asylum Company itself proved a failure, with at least one principal landing in debtor’s prison.

All that remains today of Asylum are some archaeological ruins and a museum. The historic site serves as a reminder of our country’s earliest effort to provide refuge to those fleeing persecution.

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Mexican Asylum Seekers Need Not Apply

by Jason Dzubow on November 13, 2013

in Asylum Seekers

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Carlos Gutierrez was a successful businessman in Chihuahua, Mexico when cartel members demanded extortion payments from him. After he could no longer afford to pay, the cartel members cut off his feet as an example to others. Mr. Gutierrez somehow survived and fled to the United States where he requested asylum. Ultimately, his case was administratively closed, leaving him in legal limbo (though I guess that beats deportation).

Carlos Gutierrez: "What matters is that you get up. I have no legs, but I am on my feet."

Carlos Gutierrez: “What matters is that you get up. I have no legs, but I am on my feet.”

To raise awareness about Mexican asylum seekers, Mr. Gutierrez–outfitted with prosthetic legs–biked over 700 miles across Texas:

“I’m not here to point the finger at anyone; simply to alert the [U.S.] government as to what’s going on with the Mexican people,” Gutierrez said. “People from other countries are granted asylum as soon as they touch American soil, but not us Mexicans. Because even with the circumstances we’ve lived through – in my case the attempt on my life – it isn’t enough to get asylum. I don’t think it’s fair that it’s this way for Mexicans just because we are from a neighboring country.”

Mr. Gutierrez’s lawyer, Carlos Spector, the founder of Mexicanos en Exilio, adds that, “Asylum law doesn’t reflect the Mexican reality, which is that much of the extortion is possible because of the relationship with the state.” He continues:

Because the police is an extension of the state… and because the police is often responsible for acts of violence or allows acts of violence to occur with impunity, the state is responsible for what happens to victims of organized crime. That, he says, makes it political persecution.

I’ve written before about the abysmally low asylum grant rate for Mexican asylum seekers: Historically, something like 2% of asylum cases from Mexico are granted. So what gives? Why is the denial rate for Mexican asylum seekers so high when conditions in that country are so violent?

First, let’s look at the statistics. Perhaps the situation today is not quite so dire as the historical data suggests. According to the Department of Justice, for FY 2012, there were 9,206 applications for asylum from Mexico received by the Immigration Courts. In the same year, the Courts granted 126 cases and denied 1,395 (an additional 337 Mexican cases were granted by the Asylum Offices, but I have seen no data on the total number of Mexican applications, so we do not know the success rate before the Asylum Offices – see DHS Statistics, Table 17). Another 138 cases were abandoned, 1,906 were withdrawn, and 2,335 were resolved in other ways. “Other” cases are mostly people who changed venue, but also people who received some other type of relief from removal. Presumably “abandoned” and “withdrawn” cases might also include people who received some other type of relief.

So just looking at granted (126) vs. denied (1,395), we have an 8.3% grant rate. But since this does not include people granted Withholding of Removal, relief under the Convention Against Torture or some other type of relief (Cancellation of Removal or adjustment of status), we can safely assume that the number of Mexican asylum seekers who win their court cases is significantly higher (with “win” being broadly defined, as not everyone who gets CAT relief views it as a win). 

Even if the grant rate is not as low as previously believed, it is still pretty darn low. Why?

One reason that the success rate for Mexican asylum seekers is so low may be that Mexican applications tend to be defensive (i.e., filed as a defense after the applicant is in removal proceedings) rather than affirmative. Although I have not seen any data on this, it is probably safe to assume that most Mexican cases are filed defensively. This is because the majority (61%) of aliens residing unlawfully in the U.S. are from Mexico, so it stands to reason that they would represent the largest group in removal proceedings. People in removal proceedings who have no other option tend to file for asylum as a last ditch effort to remain in the U.S. Such people are less likely to succeed (see DHS Statistics, page K2) for several reasons. For one, they are usually filing outside the one-year filing deadline and are thus probably ineligible for asylum. Also, some of these asylum seekers will be detained, which makes it much harder to successfully litigate their cases. Finally, some of these people will be in removal proceedings due to a criminal conviction, which also makes it more difficult (or impossible) to win an asylum case.

So while there are some legitimate explanations for the low denial rate of Mexican asylum seekers, could there be other, less proper, reasons? Mr. Gutierrez and his lawyer Mr. Spector suggest two possibilities: One, that because Mexico is a neighboring country, we tend to deny their asylum claims at a higher rate. This has been called the “floodgate” argument–if we grant asylum too easily to Mexicans, it will open the floodgates and we will be inundated with Mexican applicants. And two, adjudicators in the U.S. do not properly recognize that claims related to cartel violence are really political claims because the cartels and the Mexican state are inextricably linked (asylum claims can be granted based on political persecution, but generally not based on fear of criminal violence).

Although I have no evidence to back it up, I think there is something to the floodgate argument. Decision-makers are certainly aware that granting asylum to large numbers of Mexicans will likely lead to more people coming to the U.S. Combine this with the fact that these cases are relatively easy to deny (since they usually do not fall neatly within one of the five protected categories) and you have a strong incentive to reject Mexican asylum claims.

I am a bit more skeptical of the argument that these cases are “political,” since the government and the cartels are connected. Even if the government is doing the persecuting, that does not necessarily mean that the persecution is political. It may simply be (as it seems) that the criminals and their government allies are trying to steal money from the people. Under current asylum law, it is difficult to argue that this–by itself–is a basis for asylum. 

Finally, there is no doubt that many Mexicans–including Mr. Gutierrez–face dire circumstances. Perhaps there needs to be a change in the law to help them, even when they do not meet the legal definition of “refugee.” If we can help Chinese people victimized by forced family planning, and Cubans (whether they have been victimized or not), shouldn’t we do something to help our Mexican neighbors who are daily threatened, harmed, and murdered by the cartels? 

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Last week when I wrote about Dream Activists and Asylum Seekers, I caused a bit of a kerfuffle. Hopefully, today, I will do better, and this post won’t be quite so kerfuffle-inducing (and yes, I plan to see how many times I can use the word “kerfuffle” in one post – according to Carl Kasell, so far that’s three).

First, a bit of housekeeping.  If you have not read my post from last week, this entry will be harder to follow.

Probably the main objection to my posting last week was my insinuation that the asylum claims of the Dream 30 were not legitimate. However, based on the comments from their attorneys/advocates David Bennion and Mathew Kolken, it seems that the claims are legitimate, and so I will take that as a given for purposes of this blog post.

Explaining stuff helps us understand.

Explaining stuff helps us understand.

With that as background, there are two issues I want to discuss: (1) From a moral and policy point of view, is there any problem with using the Dream 30′s asylum cases to promote a political agenda (the Dream Act) when that agenda is unrelated to the substance of the asylum claim (fear of persecution in Mexico)? and (2) Will this strategy move the Dream Activists closer to their goal?

Political asylum cases are, by their nature, political (duh). This means that the claimants have a political agenda. Normally, that agenda relates to the substance of their claim. For example, I represented a Pakistani journalist who opposed the government and faced persecution because of his activities. After he received asylum, he spoke about his case in the media to try to gain attention for his cause. This seems perfectly legitimate.

The journalist’s case is different from the Dream Activists, in that the activists are not publicizing their cases to highlight the political situation in Mexico. Instead, they are highlighting the failure of the U.S. government to pass immigration reform. I worried that this use of asylum would somehow damage the asylum system. So are the Dream Activists under any obligation to justify their actions? And, if so, is there a justification for using the asylum system in this manner?

First, why should the Dream 30 be required to justify their use of the asylum system as a form of protest? They have legitimate reasons for seeking asylum, and if they want to use their cases to gain attention for the Dream Act or for any other cause, isn’t that their business? Speaking for myself, without such a justification, I find it very difficult to support their political action (though I certainly support their right to seek asylum, as per the letter from Bill Ong Hing). Although it may sound corny, having represented hundreds of asylum seekers, I believe that our system of asylum is, in some ways, sacred. It is a system that is designed to–and does–save lives. If that system is going to be used for some ulterior motive, I, for one, would like an explanation.

I can image some possible justifications: Maybe the activists think publicizing these cases will help advance immigration reform; maybe they want to demonstrate that when undocumented immigrants leave the U.S., their lives are at risk; maybe they want to alert other Dream Act-eligible people to the possibility that they might avoid removal by seeking asylum; maybe they want to inspire other undocumented people to come forward; or perhaps there is another reason for their actions that I have not thought of. My point being, it would be nice to know what the Dream Activists want.

The second big question for me is whether the strategy of publicizing the Dreamers’ asylum claims will accomplish their political goal (whatever that might be). Assuming the goal is immigration reform of some kind, I have seen no explanation for how publicizing these asylum cases will move our country towards that goal.

Certainly, it could simply be that I am ill informed. However, I am more than a casual observer, and I am not a complete idiot (at least on my better days). So if I don’t get it, probably many others don’t either. The Dream activists have done an extraordinary job of publicizing the Dream 30 (and the Dream 9 before them), but they have failed to capitalize on this initial attention to move the discussion in a positive direction. Indeed, it seems to me that they have completely lost the initiative, as the discussion has bogged down in internecine internet warfare. Maybe if the Dreamers had been more clear from the beginning about their goals and strategy, the debate over these issues would not have taken such an unproductive turn.

It is not too late for the Dream Activists to re-take the initiative and extricate themselves from the unproductive tit-for-tat with other immigrant advocates. For a start, they need to clearly explain a few things: (1) When and under what circumstances did the members of the Dream 30 leave the U.S. and why are they seeking asylum (their lawyer David Bennion did a pretty good job of this in response to my blog post from last week); (2) What is the ultimate goal of the Dream Activists; and (3) How does the action at the border help achieve that goal.

For me–and, I suspect, for others–clear answers to these questions would be a good way to begin a productive dialogue about goals and strategy, and would go a long way towards bringing us on board with the Dream Activists’ plan. But for now, without a good explanation, I am simply not convinced that the Dreamers’ actions have done anything to advance the cause of undocumented people, asylum seekers, or immigration reform.

 Kerfuffle – 4.

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The Dream 30 and Credible Fear

by Jason Dzubow on November 4, 2013

in Asylum Seekers, Credible Fear, Immigration

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The following letter is from Bill Ong Hing to President Obama. Professor Hing is a well known advocate for immigrants. He is currently a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. Prof. Hing writes about the Dream 30 credible fear cases that were rejected (about eight cases have been rejected so far; one person was deported). He is concerned that the cases have been rejected based on an unfair and incorrect legal standard. He puts the Dream 30 cases into historical perspective and argues that the rejection of these credible fear applicants is reminiscent of previous failures by our government to protect refugees.

I am not fully convinced by his conclusions, as I discussed in my last blog entry (in short, I think there are–or at least, may be–legitimate reasons why the Dreamers’ credible fear applications would be denied at a higher than average rate). However, his analysis is important and deserves attention, especially since we would not want to repeat the tragic history that he recounts.  His letter is kind of long (he is a law professor), but well worth a read if you are following this debate. Enjoy:

November 4, 2013 

President Barack Obama

The White House

Washington, DC

 

Re: Dream 30 and Credible Fear 

Dear President Obama:

I write to you today with grave concern for the “Dream 30”, young people who arrived at the Laredo Port of Entry on September 30th and requested both humanitarian parole and asylum. Twenty-six of these young people are currently detained at the El Paso Processing Center, and all have received credible fear interviews after expressing fear of returning to Mexico (or, in one case, Peru). However, seven have received negative determinations of credible fear and may now be subject to removal, and I am concerned that an unreasonable standard for credible fear has been imposed. I urge you to intervene in the credible fear screenings to ensure that the proper, more generous credible fear standard be followed. 

 

President Obama reads Professor Hing's letter.

President Obama reads Professor Hing’s letter.

The immigration system allows for those who express a fear of return at our borders to receive a credible fear interview, rather than being summarily deported. This is essential to protecting those who may face danger abroad, but have little understanding of our legal system and few resources with which to prove their case. And it is essential to maintaining the United States as a safe haven for those who have been persecuted at home.  The credible fear concept functions as a pre-screening standard that is broader and less rigorous than the “well-founded fear of persecution” standard that is required for an actual asylum application. A finding of credible fear merely gives the prospective immigrant the opportunity to apply for asylum in removal proceedings. Without this more generous screening standard, the nation risks returning immigrants to grave dangers, including situations involving political violence, police corruption, gang violence, and torture. For this very reason, the denial rate for credible fear interviews was less than 9 percent. 

The negative credible fear findings thus far in the seven Dream 30 cases are worrisome. The apparent cursory fashion in which these negative decisions were made are reminiscent of  three tragic procedural eras in the asylum history related to Central America refugees, Haitian refugees, and Jewish refugees from Europe during World War II. 

            Treatment of Central American Refugees

The Ninth Circuit opinion in Orantes-Hernandez v. Smith, 919 F.2d 549 (9th Cir. 1990), reveals that immigration officials engaged in a strategy that foreclosed the opportunity to apply for asylum for Salvadorans during the 1980s.

Generally, after aliens were apprehended, either border patrol agents or INS officers processed them. INS processing of detained aliens consisted of an interrogation combined with the completion of various forms, including form I-213, “Record of Deportable Alien,” and the presentation of form I-274 “Request for Voluntary Departure.” Although the arrested Salvadorans were eligible to apply for political asylum and to request a deportation hearing prior to their departure from the United States, the vast majority of Salvadorans apprehended signed voluntary departure agreements that commenced a summary removal process. Once a person signed for voluntary departure in the course of INS processing, he or she was subject to removal from the United States as soon as transportation could be arranged. A person given administrative voluntary departure in this manner never had a deportation hearing, the only forum before which the detained person could seek political asylum and mandatory withholding of deportation.

The Smith court found that the widespread acceptance of voluntary departure was due in large part to the coercive effects of the practices and procedures employed by INS and the unfamiliarity of most Salvadorans with their rights under United States immigration laws. INS agents directed, intimidated, or coerced Salvadorans in custody who had no expressed desire to return to El Salvador, to sign form I-274 for voluntary departure. INS agents used a variety of techniques to procure voluntary departure, ranging from subtle persuasion to outright threats and misrepresentations. Many Salvadorans were intimidated or coerced to accept voluntary departure even when they had unequivocally expressed a fear of returning to El Salvador. Even when an individual refused to sign form I-214, “Waiver of Rights,” INS officers felt that they could present the person with the voluntary departure form.

The court also found that INS processing officers engaged in a pattern and practice of misrepresenting the meaning of political asylum and of giving improper and incomplete legal advice, which denied arrested Salvadorans meaningful understanding of the options presented and discouraged them from exercising available rights. INS officers and agents routinely advised Salvadorans of the negative aspects of choosing a deportation hearing without informing them of the positive options that were available. Without informing them that voluntary departure could be requested at a deportation hearing, INS officers advised detainees that if they did not sign for voluntary departure they could be formally deported from the United States, and that such a deportation would preclude their legal re-entry without the pardon of the Attorney General.

INS officers and agents routinely told Salvadoran detainees that if they applied for asylum they would remain in detention for a long time, without mentioning the possibility of release on bond. Similarly, without advising that an immigration judge could lower the bond amount and that there were bond agencies that could provide assistance, INS agents regularly told detainees that if they did not sign for voluntary departure they would remain detained until bond was posted. Some agents told individuals the monetary bond amount they could expect or the bond amount given to other Salvadorans, without telling them that the bond amount ultimately depended upon the circumstances of the individual. 

INS officers commonly told detainees that if they applied for asylum, the application would be denied, or that Salvadorans did not get asylum. INS officers and agents represented that Salvadorans ultimately would be deported regardless of the asylum application. INS officers and agents misrepresented the eligibility for asylum by saying that it was only given to guerillas or to soldiers. INS processing agents or officers further discouraged Salvadorans from applying for asylum by telling them that the information on the application would be sent to El Salvador, and stating that asylum applicants would never be able to return to El Salvador. INS processing officers also used the threat of transfer to remote locations as a means of discouraging detained Salvadorans from exercising their rights to a hearing and to pursuing asylum claims.

Furthermore, INS agents often did not allow Salvadorans to consult with counsel prior to signing the voluntary departure forms, although they acknowledged that aliens had this right. Even those Salvadorans fortunate enough to secure legal representation were often unable to avoid voluntary departure, as INS’ practice was to refuse to recognize the authority of counsel until a formal notice of representation (Form G-28) was filed. Due to the rapid processing of Salvadoran detainees, it was often physically impossible for counsel to locate their clients and file Form G-28 before the client was removed from the country.

In conclusion, the Smith court noted: 

The record before this Court establishes that INS engages in a pattern and practice of pressuring or intimidating Salvadorans who remain detained after the issuance of an OSC to request voluntary departure or voluntary deportation to El Salvador. There is substantial evidence of INS detention officers urging, cajoling, and using friendly persuasion to pressure Salvadorans to recant their requests for a hearing and to return voluntarily to El Salvador. That this conduct is officially condoned, even in the face of complaints, demonstrates that it is a de facto policy. The existence of a policy of making daily announcements about the availability of voluntary departure, coupled with the acknowledgement that the policy is designed to free-up scarce detention space, supports the conclusion that INS detention officers make a practice of pressuring detained Salvadorans to return to El Salvador. This conduct is not the result of isolated transgressions by a few overzealous officers, but, in fact, is a widespread and pervasive practice akin to a policy. . . .
This pattern of misconduct flows directly from the attitudes and misconceptions of INS officers and their superiors as to the merits of Salvadoran asylum claims and the motives of class members who flee El Salvador and enter this country.

Thus, the court entered the following order:

1. [INS and border patrol agents] shall not employ threats, misrepresentation, subterfuge or other forms of coercion, or in any other way attempt to persuade or dissuade class members when informing them of the availability of voluntary departure pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b). The prohibited acts include, but are not limited to:

(a) Misrepresenting the meaning of political asylum and giving improper and incomplete legal advice to detained class members;

(b) Telling class members that if they apply for asylum they will remain in detention for a long period of time, without mentioning the possibility of release on bond or indicating that bond can be lowered by an immigration judge and that there are bond agencies which can provide assistance;

(c) Telling Salvadoran detainees the amount of bond given to other class members, without indicating that the bond amount ultimately depends upon the circumstances of the individual class member;

(d) Telling class members that their asylum applications will be denied, that Salvadorans do not get asylum, or that asylum is only available to guerillas or soldiers;

(e) Representing to class members that the information on the asylum application will be sent to El Salvador;

(f) Representing to class members that asylum applicants will never be able to return to El Salvador;

(g) Indicating that Salvadoran detainees will be transferred to remote locations if they do not elect voluntary departure;

(h) Advising Salvadorans of the negative aspects of choosing a deportation hearing without informing them of the positive options that are available;

(i) Refusing to allow class members to contact an attorney; and

(j) Making daily announcements at detention facilities of the availability of voluntary departure. 

The bias that INS officials and asylum corps officers exhibited toward both Guatemalan and Salvadoran asylum applicants was further exposed in American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, 760 F.Supp. 796 (N.D. Cal. 1991).  As the New York Times reported on the case:

Such applications have long presented the Government with an embarrassing choice. The United States supports the Governments of El Salvador and Guatemala, and at the same time it is asked by asylum applicants to find that they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” if they are returned home. Every approval of an application for political asylum thus amounts to an admission that the United States is aiding governments that violate the civil rights of their own citizens.

Since 1980 the Government has denied 97 percent of applications for political asylum by El Salvadorans and 99 percent of those by Guatemalans. During the same time, applications for political asylum by Eastern Europeans, Nicaraguans and residents of other countries have a high percentage of approval. For example, 76 percent of applications by residents of the Soviet Union were approved, as were 64 percent of those by residents of China.

A settlement was reached requiring the INS to readjudicate the asylum claims of certain Salvadorans and Guatemalans who were present in the United States as of 1990, and who had sought immigration benefits. The case, known as the “ABC litigation” began in 1985 as a nationwide class action on behalf of Salvadorans and Guatemalans.  The plaintiffs alleged that the INS and the Executive Office of Immigration Review were biased in their asylum adjudication process for those two nationalities.  Under the settlement, these Central Americans were eligible for new asylum interviews.

            Unfair Treatment of Haitian Asylum Applicants 

In Haitian Refugee Center v. Smith, 676 F.2d 1023 (5th Cir. 1982), the Fifth Circuit chastised the federal government for unfair processes that were imposed on Haitian asylum applicants. In response to the repressive Duvalier regime that caused political and economic havoc in Haiti in the 1970s, many Haitians fled to the United States seeking refuge.  Large numbers sought asylum once they reached the shores of Florida.  A backlog developed, so INS officials implemented an accelerated program to deal with the situation.  The program of accelerated processing to which the Haitians were subjected by the INS-termed the “Haitian Program”- embodied the government’s response to the tremendous backlog of Haitian deportation cases that had accumulated in the INS Miami district office by the summer of 1978. By June of that year between six and seven thousand unprocessed Haitian deportation cases were pending in the Miami office. These staggering numbers were not the result of a massive influx of Haitians to south Florida over a short period. Although significant numbers of Haitians had entered the United States from Haiti and the Bahamas in the spring of 1978, the backlog was primarily attributable to a slow trickle of Haitians over a ten-year period and to the confessed inaction of the INS in dealing with these aliens.

Many officials provided input in the planning process of the Haitian project.  Assigned by the Deputy Commissioner of the INS with the task of assessing the Haitian situation in Miami, INS Regional Commissioner Armand J. Salturelli submitted the recommendation, among others, that processing could be expedited by ceasing the practice of suspending deportation hearings upon the making of an asylum claim. Salturelli acknowledged that this would contravene internal operations procedures, but suggested that those procedures should be cancelled or “at least be suspended insofar as Haitians are concerned.”  One July 1978 report from the Intelligence Division of INS to the Associate Director of Enforcement advised in absolute terms that the Haitians were “economic” and not political refugees and, in belated recognition of the obvious, warned the Enforcement Division that favorable treatment of these Haitians would encourage further immigration. Associate Director of Enforcement, Charles Sava, later visited Miami to find space for holding an increased number of deportation hearings and to discuss with Miami personnel the processing of Haitians. Out of those discussions arose recommended deterrence measures, which Sava outlined in a letter to Deputy Commissioner Noto. These included detention of arriving Haitians likely to abscond, blanket denials of work permits for Haitians, swift expulsion of Haitians from the United States, and enforcement actions against smugglers. 

Planning of the Haitian program culminated in a memorandum sent on August 20, 1978 by Deputy Commissioner Noto to INS Commissioner Leonel J. Castillo. The memo explained the basic mechanics of the accelerated processing already being implemented in the Miami district office. Among the specifics set forth were the assignment of additional immigration judges to Miami, the instructions to immigration judges to effect a three-fold increase in productivity, and orders for the blanket issuance of show cause orders in all pending Haitian deportation cases.

In accordance with the goal of high productivity demanded of the Miami office, Acting District Director Gullage issued a memorandum to all personnel in the office, stating “processing of these cases cannot be delayed in any manner or in any way. All supervisory personnel are hereby ordered to take whatever action they deem necessary to keep these cases moving through the system.” The Haitian cases were processed at an unprecedented rate. Prior to the Haitian program only between one and ten deportation hearings were conducted each day. During the program, immigration judges held fifty-five hearings per day, or approximately eighteen per judge. At the program’s peak the schedule of deportation hearings increased to as many as eighty per day.

At the show cause or deportation hearing, the immigration judges refused to suspend the hearing when an asylum claim was advanced, requiring the Haitians instead to respond to the pleadings in the show cause order and proceed to a finding of deportability. The order entered by the judge allowed the Haitian ten days for filing an asylum claim with the district director, then ten days to request withholding of deportation from the immigration judge if the asylum deadline was not met. Failure to seek withholding in a timely manner effected automatic entry of a deportation order.

Deportation hearings were not the only matter handled during the Haitian program. Asylum interviews also were scheduled at the rate of forty per day. Immigration officers who formerly had worked at the airport were enlisted as hearing officers for these interviews. Prior to the program such interviews had lasted an hour and a half; during the program the officer devoted approximately one-half hour to each Haitian. In light of the time-consuming process of communication through interpreters, the court concluded that only fifteen minutes of substantive dialogue took place. Consistent with the result-oriented program designed to achieve numerical goals in processing, the Travel Control section in the Miami office recorded the daily totals of asylum applications processed. The tally sheet contained space only for the total number of denials; there was no column for recording grants of asylum. 

Hearings on requests for withholding deportation also were being conducted simultaneously with asylum and deportation hearings, at several different locations. It was not unusual for an attorney representing Haitians to have three hearings at the same hour in different buildings; this kind of scheduling conflict was a daily occurrence for attorneys throughout the Haitian program. The INS was fully aware that only approximately twelve attorneys were available to represent the thousands of Haitians being processed, and that scheduling made it impossible for counsel to attend the hearings. It anticipated the scheduling conflicts that in fact occurred. Nevertheless the INS decided that resolving the conflicts was “too cumbersome for us to handle” and adopted the attitude that everything would simply work out.

Under these circumstances, the court concluded that the INS had knowingly made it impossible for Haitians and their attorneys to prepare and file asylum applications in a timely manner. The court found that adequate preparation of an asylum application required between ten and forty hours of an attorney’s time. The court further estimated that if each of the attorneys available to represent the Haitians “did nothing during a 40 hour week except prepare [asylum applications], they would have been able to devote only about 2 hours to each client.” 

The results of the accelerated program adopted by INS are revealing. None of the over 4,000 Haitians processed during this program were granted asylum.

In the end, the federal court of appeals struck down the accelerated program as a violation of procedural due process. The government was forced to submit a procedurally fair plan for the orderly reprocessing of the asylum applications of the Haitian applicants who had not been deported. 

            Turning Away Jewish Refugees During World War II

In the 1930s, for example, the United States turned away thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution (e.g., SS St. Louis), in large part because of powerful restrictionist views against certain ethnic, religious, and racial groups. Congress and U.S. consular officers consistently resisted Jewish efforts to emigrate and impeded any significant emergency relaxation of limitations on quotas. 

The plight of European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the ship SS St. Louis in 1939 is a horrific example of how restrictionist views were manifested toward refugees at the time. In a diabolical propaganda ploy in the Spring of 1939, the Nazis had allowed this ship carrying destitute European Jewish refugees to leave Hamburg bound for Cuba, but had arranged for corrupt Cuban officials to deny them entry even after they had been granted visas.  It was the objective of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to prove that no country wanted the Jews.  The St. Louis was not allowed to discharge its passengers and was ordered out of Havana harbor.  As it sailed North, it neared United States territorial waters.  The U.S. Coast Guard warned it away.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt had said that the United States could not accept any more European refugees because of immigration quotas, as untold thousands had already fled Nazi terror in Central Europe and many had come to the depression-racked United States.

Nearly two months after leaving Hamburg, and due to the efforts of U.S. Jewish refugee assistance groups, the ship was allowed to land in Holland.  Four nations agreed to accept the refugees—Great Britain, Holland, Belgium and France.  Two months later, the Nazis invaded Poland and the Second World War began.  Over 600 of the 937 passengers on the St. Louis were killed by the Nazis before the war was over.  When the United States refused the St. Louis permission to land, many Americans were embarrassed; when the country found out after the war what happened to the refugees, they were ashamed. 

            Closing

Recognizing credible fear is not a grant of asylum. It merely recognizes that the person has shown a significant possibility that that the applicant can meet the standard for asylum before an immigration judge. It simply gives the person a chance for a fair hearing in an immigration court.

The standard for credible fear is not meant to be high. In a case that I litigated, NS v Cardosa-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987), the Supreme Court recognized that the “well-founded fear” standard for asylum can be met even when a 10 percent chance of persecution is established. And the credible fear standard is meant to be an even lower burden than well-founded fear.

The Dream 30 are young people that deserve fair treatment. Your administration should not be associated with the tragic asylum eras of the past that I have outlined above. Politics should not get in the way. I urge you to treat them fairly in their bid for refuge in this country and to give their cases due consideration. If they have a credible fear, they should be allowed to make a case for asylum in front of an immigration judge, rather than be subject to expedited removal. I urge you to protect the integrity of the asylum system that has been designed to be symbol of hope and freedom throughout the world.

Sincerely,

Bill Ong Hing

Professor of Law, University of San Francisco

Professor of Law Emeritus, University of California, Davis

This letter was published with permission from Prof. Hing. The footnote has been omitted.

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Dream Activists vs. Asylum Seekers

by Jason Dzubow on October 31, 2013

in Asylum Seekers, Immigration

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By now, you’re probably familiar with the Dream 30, a group of 30 young Dreamers: 29 Mexicans and one Peruvian who grew up in the U.S. and who would likely benefit from the Dream Act. The group voluntarily left the United States, returned to Mexico, and then presented themselves at the U.S. border and requested asylum. The point is to call attention to the plight of all young people in their position, stop deportations of such people, and push immigration reform.

The 30 activists were detained and interviewed about whether they had a credible fear of return to Mexico. According to their attorney David Bennion, 9 of 25 interviewed Dreamers were found not to have a credible fear of return. This is significantly above the average denial rate, which was about 8.3% for FY2013. Mr. Bennion points out that the Dreamers should have done better–not worse–than average, given that they are generally well educated and speak English. Based on this, attorney and Dream 30 supporter Mathew Kolken smells a rat. He writes, “Looks like the [Obama] administration is making an example out of the DREAM 30 in order to make a political point.”

I don't remember the Freedom Riders running over other poor people to reach their goal.

I don’t remember the Freedom Riders running over other poor people to reach their goal.

Of the original group, eight were released and the remainder have been detained since September 30, 2013 (even some who have demonstrated a credible fear). The detained Dreamers are currently on a hunger strike to call attention to their cause.

The most recent news is that one of the Dreamers was deported to Mexico.

As an asylum attorney, I must admit that I have mixed feelings about the strategy of these activists. But before I get to that, I want to raise an objection to Mr. Kolken’s conclusion that the high denial rate for the Dream 30′s credible fear interviews is evidence that the Obama Administration is somehow punishing these activists.

It is true that the Dreamer’s denial rate (36%) is much higher than the over-all denial rate (8.3%) for credible fear interviews. However, there are several (legitimate) factors working against the Dreamers. For one, they are mostly from Mexico, which has a very low asylum grant rate. Since something like 98% of Mexican asylum claims are denied, it stands to reason that credible fear cases from Mexico will be less likely to succeed than average. Since Mr. Kolken is comparing the 36% denial rate of the (Mexican) Dreamers to the 8.3% denial rate for all countries, many of which have very high asylum grant rates, it really is not a fair comparison. In addition, the Dreamers were in the United States, and then they voluntarily departed (though one could argue that they were forced to leave due to their lack of papers). Asylum claimants who voluntarily return to their home countries are much less likely to succeed when compared to asylum applicants who did not return to the country of feared persecution. I am not sure how much of a factor this is, as some aspects of the asylum claims may have arisen since the Dreamers returned to Mexico, but my guess is that the voluntary return weakens the Dreamers’ asylum and credible fear claims. For these reasons, I am not convinced that the 36% denial rate is all that unusual (though the fact that several Dreamers have passed their credible fear interviews and yet remain detained is somewhat unusual). So for me, at least, the jury is still out as to whether the Obama Administration (or ICE/Enforcement and Removal Operations, which often defies the Obama Administration) is retaliating against the Dreamers.

Now to the mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I can appreciate creative acts of civil disobedience as much as the next middle-age, father-of-two, with-a-mortgage-to-pay guy. It’s also quite clear that the Dream Activists are earnest and passionate, and that they are gaining attention for the cause (hopefully more positive than negative).

On the other hand, as an attorney who represents asylum seekers, I am concerned about their tactical decision to use the asylum system as the vehicle for their civil disobedience. While it appears that at least some of the Dreamers returned to Mexico and then found that the situation was unsafe, the fact remains that they left the U.S. without seeking asylum and returned to Mexico. They then presented themselves at the border and requested asylum. If the Dreamers actually had a fear of returning to Mexico, they should have requested asylum before they left. Indeed, a major factor in any asylum case where the applicant returns to her country is the return trip itself. Without a good explanation or evidence of changed circumstances since the date of return, a return trip to the home country will doom most asylum applications.

Also, to some extent, the asylum system is already under siege, and I fear that using that system to make a political point will do further damage. I don’t want to overstate the case here. There are those who blame the Dreamers for the current mess at the border (asylum offices across the country have ground to a halt as resources have been shifted to deal with a dramatic increase in credible fear interviews at the border), but that problem started long before the Dream 30 (or their predecessors, the Dream 9). Nevertheless, the actions of the Dream 9 and the Dream 30 are certainly the most high profile credible fear cases at the border, and their leadership may encourage others to try to exploit the credible fear system.  

Finally, I can’t help but view this tension–Dreamers vs. Asylum Seekers–as a case of the poor eating the poor: Desperate people trying to regularize their status are using a tactic that harms other desperate people fleeing persecution. While I hope (against the odds) that we will have a DREAM Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform, I am not convinced that using the asylum system to make a political point in support of those goals is the best strategy. I fear that the collateral damage to legitimate asylum seekers will be too great.

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In the Ethiopian-American community, at long last, the hunters have become the hunted. 

Members of the community have created a new website to share information and help bring to justice Ethiopian human rights abusers living in the United States. The founders of the website, called YaTewlid (meaning “The Generation”), are themselves torture survivors. They have been inspired by a few recent prosecutions of Ethiopian human rights abusers in the United States.

The most recent case involved a high-ranking prison guard during the time of the Red Terror in Ethiopia (1977-78). Earlier this month, Kefelgn Alemu Worku was convicted of immigration fraud after he entered the U.S. using a false name and lied about his background. According to the Denver Post, those who witnessed against him testified that Mr. Kefelgn tortured and murdered hundreds of prisoners, including one witnesses’ best friend. Mr. Kefelgn faces up to 22 years in prison (for the fraud) and then deportation to Ethiopia where, presumably, he would not receive a friendly reception.

Kefelgn Alemu Worku proves that time wounds all heels.

Kefelgn Alemu Worku proves that time wounds all heels.

As an aside, Mr. Kefelgn’s case demonstrates why the various immigration forms ask questions like, Are you a persecutor? or Have you ever committed a crime? On their face, the questions seems silly–what self-respecting persecutor would admit that he was a persecutor? The U.S. government does not necessarily expect persecutors and criminals to admit their misdeeds (though that would be nice). Rather, if the government discovers evidence that the alien is a persecutor, it is a lot easier to prosecute him for immigration fraud than for the actual crimes he committed in his country. And that is exactly what happened to Mr. Kefelgn. He was prosecuted not for his war crimes, but instead for his immigration fraud (this reminds me of how the government prosecuted Al Capone for tax evasion rather than murder). 

As of this writing, the YaTewlid website is only in Amharic, but its founders hope to have an English version in the future. I had an Amharic-speaking friend check it out. She reports that the website needs some work, but it will potentially be a useful tool for uncovering human rights abusers living in the U.S.

It seems to me that DHS/ICE would do well to talk to groups such as YaTewlid, since the people best able to ferret out criminals (and fraudsters) are members of the various immigrant communities. 

Indeed, ICE does have a special unit, called the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU – though I think they need a more sexy acronym), which is part of the National Security Investigations Division. According to its website, HRVWCU–

conducts investigations focused on human rights violations in an effort to prevent the United States from becoming a safe haven to those individuals who engage in the commission of war crimes, genocide, torture, and other forms of serious human rights abuses from conflicts around the globe.

The unit has had its fair share of successes. Again, from the website:

Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 250 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE has denied more than 117 individuals from obtaining entry visas to the United States and created more than 20,000 subject records, which prevented identified human-rights violators from attempting to enter the United States. In addition, ICE successfully obtained deportation orders to physically remove more than 590 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, ICE is pursuing more than 1,900 leads and removal cases that involve suspected human rights violators from nearly 96 different countries.

The efforts of HRVWCU are crucial to preventing human rights abusers from taking advantage of our immigration and asylum systems, and to protecting the integrity of those systems. The cooperation of community groups such as YaTewlid is also crucial to this effort.

It is in the interest of everyone–government, immigrant groups, and “the system”– to find, punish, and deport human rights abusers. Only in this way can we provide some justice for the victims and keep the door open to legitimate refugees who need our protection.

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Before they can receive asylum, every applicant must undergo a security background check. But what exactly does the government check? And how can they learn about an applicant’s background when she spent most of her life outside the United States?

To me, these security background checks have always been a bit of a mystery. I’ve heard that the checks involve multiple agencies (FBI, State Department, etc.) and multiple data bases, but I did not know much more than that. Now, a recent article has shed some light on at least one type of background check: The FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC) operates the nation’s “bomb library,” which keeps data on explosive devices used in terrorist attacks. TEDAC is directed by Greg Carl and operates out of Quantico, Virginia.

Each bomb maker leaves a unique signature.

Each bomb maker leaves a unique signature.

TEDAC analyzes the “remnants of improvised explosive devices… in hopes of recovering latent prints from the insurgent bomb makers who crafted them.” The Center has created a “comprehensive database of known terrorists for all law enforcement, the U.S. intelligence community and the military to share.” The Center has received evidence from the “underwear bomber,” the Boston Marathon bombing, and from attacks all across the world. The evidence collected by TEDAC comes from “bombings in as many as 25 countries from as far as the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia, in addition to the United States:”

More than 100,000 boxes of evidence have been collected so far. They contain more than a million fragments fashioned from ordinary objects, which are barcoded and labeled before going through a wide array of forensic examinations, including toolmark identification, which allows matches of fragments to be made. Every scrap is searched for clues to a bomber’s identity.

The Center’s work seems to be effective. “According to Mary Kathryn Book, a physical scientist with the lab, ‘Approximately 60% of the time, we are able to recover prints from these items through fingerprint processing. And then later these prints are searched in our database and we attempt to identify the individuals who left them.’”

One project that is directly relevant to refugees and asylum seekers is the ongoing examination of IED material from Iraq to determine if “any Iraqi refugees relocated in the United States may be tied to IED attacks, as was the case with two Iraqi refugees based in Kentucky.” (I wrote about this issue here).

Unfortunately, our Congress has decided to cut funds from TEDAC (well, “decided” might not be accurate – they simply slashed and burned the budget indiscriminately). For all of us, there is the concern that we will be less safe due to these budget cuts. For asylum seekers fleeing persecution, it likely also means more delays for security background checks. This means longer insecurity and separation from family. In the unlikely event that Congress gets its act together, we can only hope that TEDAC will receive the funds it needs to keep operating effectively.

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It seems that advocates for “Dreamers”–young foreigners who would benefit from the Dream Act–are trying a new tactic: Leaving the country and then returning to seek asylum. Not long ago, I wrote about the Dream 9, who presented themselves at the U.S./Mexico border and requested asylum. They were released and will have to appear before Immigration Judges, who will decide their cases. Now, we have the Dream 30, who have done pretty much the same thing. This new tactic holds promise and risk, both for themselves and for other asylum seekers.

"Dreamers" might be a particular social group, but I am not so sure about "dreamboats."

“Dreamers” might be a particular social group, but I am not so sure about “dreamboats.”

Asylum, of course, is a legal tool that has been used and expanded by creative lawyers. When the modern asylum system was created by the Refugee Act of 1980, many people who routinely receive protection today–victims of female genital mutilation, LGBT individuals, victims of domestic violence–would likely have been ineligible for asylum. To the extent that their actions are not simply a type of civil disobedience, the Dreamers seem to be seeking to expand the category of protected individuals to include people who grew up in the U.S., and who face threats in their home countries because they are viewed as “American.” This strategy raises two basic questions: (1) Will it work? and (2) How will it affect other asylum seekers?

First, will it work? I think it might, at least in some cases. I’ve represented several asylum seekers who made claims similar to the Dreamers: A lesbian who had not been to her home country of Sudan since she was young, Afghan women (and a few men) who studied in the U.S. and who are viewed by extremists as “Westernized,” an Iraqi woman whose family was associated with the U.S. These applicants were successful (or their cases are still pending), but my guess is that their claims are stronger than most of the Dreamers’ claims. Nonetheless, the principle is the same.

A broader–and more radical–solution for the Dreamers might be if the Obama Administration defined them as a particular social group for asylum purposes. There is precedent for such a move: In 2009, DHS issued a brief in Matter of LR where it stated, “DHS accepts that in some cases, a victim of domestic violence may be a member of a cognizable particular social group…. This does not mean, however, that every victim of domestic violence would be eligible for asylum.” Prior to the end of DOMA, I (clumsily) advocated a similar approach to help LGBT couples.

If DHS agrees that deported Dreamers are a particular social group (defined as “young, Americanized Mexicans,” for example), they would then need to demonstrate that they face persecution in their home country based on their social group. DHS could potentially make a blanket determination that members of this social group would face persecution in Mexico, El Salvador or wherever, and – Voila! – Dreamers get asylum, and you effectively pass the Dream Act without Congressional action (and they could apply for asylum without leaving the U.S.).

Of course, there would be consequences to such an approach, which brings us to the second question: How will it affect other asylum seekers?

For one thing, unless significant resources were re-allocated, giving asylum to the Dreamers would completely overwhelm the asylum system. That system has already been ground to a halt by a few extra thousands arrivals at our border, so it certainly could not handle millions of new cases. 

In addition, it would be very expensive. There are no government fees for asylum applications. Presumably, if the Dream Act becomes law, Dreamers will pay a fee to regularize their status. In general, USCIS is operated based on filing fees (that is why it has not been closed by the government shutdown), so these fees would be needed to adjudicate the Dreamers’ cases.

Third–and this for me is the real problem–it will harm (or destroy) the integrity of the asylum system. Asylum, by definition, is an individualized form of relief. While one person from a particular country may have a strong asylum case, another may have no case at all. To view these cases collectively sets a very bad precedent. Worse, to grant asylum to an entire group (i.e., Dreamers), many of whom probably would not otherwise qualify, turns the asylum system into a political tool for avoiding the normal legislative process (i.e., passing the Dream Act). Such a move would do great damage to the asylum system, a system that is supposed to be free from political influence.

Asylum as a blanket solution to the Dreamers’ dilemma is certainly not the best way to solve the problem. It would obviously be much better for Congress (specifically the House of Representatives) to pass the Dream Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform. But as a strategic approach, perhaps the “threat” of giving asylum to all Dreamers might provide an incentive for the House to take up immigration reform. After all, the language of nihilism, self destruction, and ends-justifies-the-means is the only language that the House of Representatives seems to understand.

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At the heart of the Republicans’ intransigence on the budget and the debt ceiling, and their willingness to shut our government down in order to (sort-of) block Obamacare, lies an utter contempt for America’s government and its employees. A willingness to disrespect, blame, and penalize government “bureaucrats” for everything and anything. They love to quote President Reagan‘s old trope: “Government is the problem.” Well, I have a proposal for you–if you hate government so much, why not try living in a country without one?

As an asylum attorney, many of the people I represent come from countries without decent governments. They come to America because in their countries, there is no security, no jobs, no justice. Let me tell you about some of my clients.

One is a woman from Afghanistan who was pushed into an engagement by her family and her fiance’s family. The woman was highly educated and accomplished. In her job, she helped hundreds of people and she met with many high-level officials, including a U.S. Secretary of State. Her fiance threatened to kill her if she continued her work or education. Did her government help her? No, in Afghanistan, women have no rights when it comes to family matters. She had to come to our government for help, and she received asylum.

I represented a policeman from Nepal who had worked and fought against Maoist guerrillas. Although many outside observers (including the U.S. government) consider the Maoists a terrorist group, they managed to enter politics and eventually take power in Nepal. The result was that when the guerrillas attempted to kill my client, there was no one to protect him. He fled the country and received refuge here.

Another client was a man from El Salvador whose relatives were murdered by gang members. The Salvadoran government was unable to control the gang, and so the man fled to the U.S., where he received protection.

I’ve represented an old lady from Iraq. A Shi’ite militia kidnapped her son. There was no one to protect the family, so she paid a ransom to have the son released. After that, the militia continued to extort and threaten her until she came to the U.S. and received asylum.

The list goes on and on, and it’s not just an absence of government; it’s bad government: A Falun Gong practitioner who was beaten by Chinese officials; a Somali man, shot in the leg by militiamen; an Ethiopian political activist beaten and tortured by police; a political activist from Zimbabwe who was raped by police after she attended a political rally; a Rwandan Tutsi woman who saw her family members murdered in front of her; a Syrian doctor held in a torture prison; a Russian political activist stripped of his citizenship and threatened; a gay man from Egypt beaten by the police; a lesbian from Serbia who was gang raped. And on and on and on. And that’s not counting all the corruption and discrimination that are endemic in most governments around the world, but which would not form the basis for an asylum claim.

From my point of view, there is great value in an honest (or at least mostly honest) bureaucracy. To disrespect our government workers, to punish them and hold them hostage to a political agenda, and to crush their morale is not just a disgrace. It demonstrates a shocking naivete about how the world works, and about how governments and economies work. Such naivete might be excusable in a college freshman enchanted by Ayn Rand, but it is criminally negligent in an elected official.

Since they don’t have the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act–a law that has been properly voted on and survived a Supreme Court challenge, not to mention the re-election of President Obama–House Republicans have just shut the government down. They couldn’t do that to the United States and its employees unless they had utter contempt for those employees. That attitude moves our country in the direction of places without a good government; places like Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. 

So, House Republicans, I invite you to visit countries where government really is the problem. Or speak to my clients, who understand all too well what that means. Maybe if you were not so ignorant, you would be a bit more respectful of the people who keep our country great, our government employees.

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One of the benefits–if that is the right word–of working on asylum cases is that you get to learn about a side of the world that is hidden. Countries that persecute people usually don’t like to publicize what they do. Most times, the knowledge really isn’t all that news worthy. It’s interesting and sad, but we’re all busy, and there’s only so much time in the day to worry about these things. But a client recently sent me this story, and I wanted to pass it on. It reflects one small piece of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Syrian refugees on the boat. The woman killed by the Egyptian Coast Guard is visible at the bottom right.

Syrian refugees on the boat. The woman killed by the Egyptian Coast Guard is visible at the bottom right.

My client is a Syrian asylum seekers (currently stuck in limbo along with most asylum seekers in the U.S.). He has contacts with the Syrian Free Army and has been involved in the humanitarian effort to help his people (the UN estimate that the war has created 1.5 million refugees and 4 million IDPs).

Apparently, some Syrian refugees in Egypt were trying to escape Egypt and reach Sweden. The first leg of their journey involved a boat trip to Italy. While they were still in Egyptian waters, the Egyptian Coast Guard chased them, fired on their boat with live ammunition, and then captured the refugees. Two people were killed by the gunfire. As of today, the refugees–men, women, and children–remain detained in Egypt in difficult conditions. My client was able to talk with one of the detained refugees by cell phone. Below are some excerpts from the conversation (translated from Arabic and edited by me for clarity).

The trip began last Tuesday, September 17, at 8:00 AM. We started from the shores of Alexandria, Egypt towards Italy. We hoped to reach Sweden to apply for political asylum. When the boat left, we were in extremely hard conditions and the boat itself was in very bad shape and very old. The boat was carrying almost 200 persons, including 30 children as young as four months old. There were also about 50 women; some of them are pregnant. The rest were men aged 20 to over 50.

After sailing for almost an hour, we were surprised that the Egyptian Coast Guard was tracking us. They began shooting live ammunition towards us, even though they could hear the screams of women and children and all the people on-board, and we waved our hands at them hoping they would stop shooting. They did not respond to our desperate cries and they kept shooting at us until our boat stopped. Then some Coast Guard members jumped onto our boat and threatened everyone with their guns. They did not even try to help the wounded among us.

The daughter of Fadwa Taha mourns her dead mother.

The daughter of Fadwa Taha mourns her dead mother.

When the situation calmed down for a moment, we discovered that there were two dead people, killed by the shooting. They are Omar Dalloul, a man in his late thirties, and Fadwa Taha, a woman in her fifties. There were also two people wounded–a 15-year-old boy and a young man who is 20 years old.

After that, the boat was towed to Aboukir Harbor in Alexandria (which is a military harbor), the coast guard did not allow any humanitarian agencies or media to document the incident. They pressured us to leave the boat. We tried our best not to leave the boat before having any organization present like the Red Cross or other humanitarian organization. We stood on the boat for four hours and tried to contact anyone to help us, but it was no use. Finally, the Egyptians promised that we would go to the police station for an hour to sign some paperwork and then be released.  But when we arrived at the police station, they took our passports and we have not been allowed to leave.

Immediately after we left the boat, we were detained in the port for 15 hours in the open. The children and women slept on the floor without any blankets. Finally, at around 2:00 AM on Wednesday, our group was divided up and we were transferred to two police station in Alexandria: Almountazah 2 Police Department and Aboukir Police Point.

Syrian men and boys detained at the Egyptian police station.

Syrian men and boys detained at the Egyptian police station.

The situation is very bad in prison. The part of the prison where we are does not have water or bathrooms because it is still under construction. Every day, construction workers and painters come and work here and the kids are suffering from the smell of paint. Also, there is a swamp nearby and so we are suffering from mosquitoes and flies.

We have babies who need nursing and the police won’t let them out of the prison. We have a boy who is here alone without his parents. When his family came to take him, the police didn’t agree. They said that he is charged and he needs to stay in prison. He is nine years old.

No media have covered our story, but we think some charity knows we are here because we are receiving food. We are not sure who is providing it, but it is not from the prison.

As far as I know, the refugees are still detained in Alexandria. Of course, I cannot verify this story, but it comes from a source I trust.

Egypt has signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. We can only hope that despite the turmoil in their own country, the Egyptians will live up to their obligations and treat these and other refugees with respect.

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Just prior to the 2008 presidential election, the AP broke a story about Candidate Obama’s Aunt Zeituni, a rejected asylum seeker who was living in the U.S. illegally. The source for the story was an unnamed “federal law enforcement official.” At the time, it appeared that the leak was designed to harm Obama’s chances for success in the election. As you may have noticed, it didn’t.

After news of the leak broke, ICE initiated an investigate, and speculation about the source abounded.

"Outing" asylum seekers ain't classy, San Diego.

“Outing” asylum seekers ain’t classy, San Diego.

Fast forward to September 2013 when a heavily-redacted version of the report from the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility was finally made public. The report, which was actually completed in August 2010, states that ICE/OPR identified the leaker, who admitted what he did. However, it does not name names, nor does it indicate whether the leaker was punished. However, from a careful review of the report, some on-line research, and a bit of deduction, we can make a pretty good guess about who leaked Aunt Zeituni’s name and immigration status to the press.

We begin with the initial AP article, which was written by Eileen Sullivan and Elliot Spagat. The article does not name the source of information, but it states that the Aunt’s asylum application was denied in 2004 and she was ordered deported.

The ICE/OPR report indicates that the leaker was interviewed by “OPR/San Diego” in May and June 2010. The leaker admitted that he spoke with a male reporter (the names of the journalists are redacted, but it is most likely Elliot Spagat). The leaker stated that the disclosure was an “error in judgment.” He also claimed that he had no “political motivations.” Instead, he revealed the aunt’s illegal status because it was “very interesting information” and he thought “the American public has a right to know that.”

According to the report, the leaker had spoken with the reporter before and had a history of getting together with him socially. The leaker was first introduced to the reporter in 2007 by someone at the DHS Office of Public Affairs (which is the “primary point of contact for news media, organizations and the general public seeking information” about DHS). The leaker did two or three interviews with the reporter in the course of their relationship.

From this, we can glean some useful information about the source of the leak.

First, since the interview was conducted by OPR/San Diego, we can guess that the leaker is in San Diego. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the reporter (Mr. Spagat) is based in San Diego, and apparently the reporter and the leaker had met up socially a few times.

Second, the fact that the journalist had interviewed the leaker for two or three prior stories, and that the leaker was purposefully introduced to the journalist by the Office of Public Affairs points to a higher-ranking ICE officer. A lower-ranking employee would probably not be introduced to a journalist by the Office of Public Affairs or interviewed several times.

Since the leaker admitted to having been interviewed “two or three” times between 2007 (when he met the journalist) and October 31, 2008 (the date of the leak), we can look for names of ICE agents who appear in Mr. Spagat’s articles during this period.

Some on-line research revealed a few names, though one stood out because he appeared in several articles by Mr. Spagat in 2007 and 2008, but did not appear in any article after the election. While this person was the most likely suspect, I certainly did not have enough evidence to be sure. 

I thought the best approach would be simply to ask the person. I found his email, and sent the following message:

I have been investigating the disclosure of President Obama’s aunt’s case prior to the 2008 election. My research has led me to believe that you informed AP reporter Elliot Spagat about the aunt’s case. I am writing to ask whether you would be willing to discuss this situation.  Please let me know.

A few days later, I received this response from an attorney in Washington, DC who specializes in national security law:

My friend [redacted] contacted me about your e-mail inquiring about the disclosure of President Obama’s aunt’s case prior to the 2008 election. As I am sure you can imagine as a current ICE agent [redacted] would never be permitted to discuss a specific case without authorization from his agency. Respectfully, therefore, he can not respond to your e-mail.

Since this email came from a lawyer (and a pretty fancy lawyer at that) instead of DHS Public Affairs, and since it was not a denial, I suppose it provides some additional support for my theory about the leaker’s identity, but it was still not enough. I responded as follows:

Thank you for writing… I understand his position. Given the evidence I currently have, it seems very likely to me that he is the person who leaked the information. That said, it is currently not my intention to name him in the blog post (even as a suspect), as I do not wish to implicate anyone unless I am 100% certain about my information. If anything changes in that regard, I will contact you before I publish anything.

And that is as far as I got. So I guess I will not be winning any prizes for investigative journalism. While I feel that the public has a right to know who violated Aunt Zeituni’s confidentiality, I believe it would be wrong to accuse someone by name without stronger proof.

The OPR report indicates that “no prosecutorial actions” were taken in the case. I suppose that means that the leaker was not punished. He could have been: It is a violation of the law to violate an asylum seeker’s confidentiality. See 8 C.F.R. §§ 208.6(c) & 1208.6(c). Government officials who violate this provision can be fired. See Lewis v. Dep’t of Justice, 34 Fed. Appx. 774 (Fed.Cir.2002).

To me, it is ironic that the leaker’s confidentiality received more protection than that of the asylum seeker. However, the fact that ICE investigated the leak and took it seriously will, we can hope, deter others from revealing such confidences in the future.

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This piece was originally published by [wherever] magazine, an out of place journal of travel literature, travel culture, and travel politics. I will periodically be blogging for the new magazine, which seems like a very cool publication (probably too cool for the likes of me, but for now, I’m still in).

I wrote this piece because I am contacted pretty regularly by U.S. citizens who are seeking asylum abroad, or who are thinking about it. Some of these asylum seekers are not so legitimate in my estimation–criminals who hope to avoid the consequences of their crimes. Others represent sad situations that involve people who have been frustrated by their inability to receive help from the government. Victims of domestic abuse are one example in this category. Also, there are those who are engaged in political activity (or what they consider political activity) that could result in criminal penalties here. Edward Snowden falls into this category. So do certain cannabis activists and others in favor of drug legalization (people who consider drug use a political act).

Some people need to flee the U.S.; others just need to leave already.

Some people need to flee the U.S.; others just need to leave already.

OK, without further ado, the original piece is here (where you can also check out some interesting articles and photos), and a slightly shortened version is below:

Let’s say you’ve decided to flee the United State of America. You’re not some high-profile asylum seeker like Edward Snowden, who can count on help from a rival government (Russia). Instead, you’re just an ordinary asylum seeker, who will have to demonstrate that you qualify for protection under international law. How would you go about it? 

To qualify for asylum, you need to demonstrate that you are a “refugee” under international law. According to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a “refugee” is “any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” The first thing you need to do in order to qualify for asylum is to leave the United States.

While a Julian Assange might get away with living in a friendly embassy (Ecuador in his case), you’re probably no Julian Assange.  Most people who ask for refuge inside an embassy will be summarily evicted. So don’t think you can simply waltz into the nearest consulate of your choice, tell them you need assistance, and that they will provide you with a bed and three squares. It just doesn’t work that way. So you’ll first need to get out of the U.S.

Assuming you make it safely to your new country, you will need to show that you were persecuted in the past or that you have a well-founded fear of future persecution. “Persecution” has been defined as “an extreme concept, marked by the infliction of suffering or harm… in a way regarded as offensive.” So for example, if you’re a cannabis activist who faces jail time for smoking pot, you likely would not qualify for asylum because this punishment is not severe enough to constitute “persecution.”

Even if you have been persecuted, that might not be enough to win your asylum case—the persecution has to be on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. If you fear harm because you revealed government secrets, a la Edward Snowden, that might not be considered one of the protected grounds, and so you would be out of luck (though perhaps you could argue that your “whistleblowing” was a form of political activity and thus gain protection). Also, if you fear persecution from criminal gangs, or you face domestic violence, or you will be harmed because of your sexual orientation, you may or may not qualify for asylum—it depends on the law of the country where you are requesting protection. For this reason, you would be well served by doing some research about the country where you plan to seek protection before you make the trip. 

So how do you actually make the claim for asylum once you reach your destination country? In many countries (including most countries you’d actually want to go to), there is a form to complete where you provide information about yourself and your claim. You also need to submit evidence—identity documents like your passport, and school and work records, evidence of harm such as medical records and police reports, letters from people attesting to your problems. Then you will be interviewed about your application. Small mistakes on the form or during the interview—a wrong date for example—might cause the adjudicator to conclude that you are not credible, and that your claim is false. Also, seeking asylum from a powerful and influential country like the U.S., a country that generally respects human rights, will be an uphill battle. And remember, there is a good chance you will be doing all of this in a language you don’t understand, possibly while the host government is detaining you as an illegal migrant. The case will take months if you are lucky and years if you are not. Some governments provide limited benefits such as housing and a small stipend for people with pending asylum cases; other governments require asylum seekers to fend for themselves.

Assuming you pass the interview and are granted asylum, what then? You might receive some assistance from the host country—housing, language instruction, job placement—or you might not. In some countries, you can petition to bring your immediate relatives (minor children and spouse) to join you. This will likely take many months, on top of the many months you already waited for the decision in your case.  If you ever return to the U.S., you will quite possibly lose your asylum status and be deported from your new home. So there is a good chance you can’t ever come back, and you probably won’t see many of your relatives and friends again.

As you can see, asylum is often a difficult, frightening, and traumatic process.  Good Luck (though you will need more than that!).

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It’s rare to hear from judges about how their jobs affect them. In an engaging new memoir, Bench Pressed, former Immigration Judge Susan L. Yarbrough discusses the human side of adjudicating asylum cases.

Is it hubris or chutzpah (or both) to judge a Judge on the Day of Judgment?

Is it hubris or chutzpah (or both) to judge a Judge on the Day of Judgment?

The book covers five cases decided by Judge Yarbrough–one for each of the five protected grounds (race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and particular social group). Reflecting the time period (1990′s) and the location of her court (Texas), most of the cases involve Latin American applicants. The one exception is a Palestinian man who was used as a human shield by the Israeli army. The IJ gives some background on the country situation and then describes each person’s case. Finally, she talks about how each case affected her.

This book was a quick read, and–as a person who practices asylum law on a daily basis–I really enjoyed it. That said, it seems to me that the book is targeted more for people who are not so familiar with the asylum system. For someone like me, the stories of the applicants are probably the least interesting part of the book. I am more interested in the Judge’s observations of “the system” and of her own reactions to the cases. The stories of the applicants are similar to what I hear from my clients all the time. But for people who do not live this stuff, I imagine that the stories may be the most interesting part of the book (and the stories are interesting).

One surprise in the book was how strongly Judge Yarbrough was affected by these cases. She often described crying after a case, and it was obvious that the job was emotionally trying for her. In some ways, I think she is lucky to “feel” the cases so strongly, though of course it takes a toll. I clerked for an immigration court during the same time that Judge Yarbrough was active, and so I observed IJs in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and (mostly) Arlington, Virginia. I never got the sense that they were as emotionally affected as Judge Yarbrough, and so I think her reactions may be somewhat atypical. Nonetheless, her observations shed important light on the emotional damage these cases can do to the adjudicators (and others in the system).

If there is a weakness to the book, it is that the Judge does not discuss any cases that she denied. I would have been curious to see how a judge reconciles her duty to the law with what she views as the morally correct outcome where those two concepts are in conflict. I recall a federal appeal I worked on where the applicant sought asylum based on fear of persecution by gang members in El Salvador. During the trial, the IJ agreed that he faced persecution and she told him, “I think you are in a terrible situation and I could not have more sympathy for you.” Nevertheless, she denied his case because a protected ground was not “one central reason” for his persecution (I litigated the case in the Fourth Circuit where we lost). I was (and am) curious about how an IJ can square her feelings of sympathy towards an applicant–and her belief that she may be sending the applicant back to his death–with what she views as her duty to enforce the law.

Overall, I thought Judge Yarbrough’s book was a very worthwhile read. If you practice asylum law, you will enjoy reading about the system from the IJ’s point of view. Also, if you are like me, you will find some schadenfreudian (if that is a word) pleasure from reading the Judge’s descriptions of certain government and private attorneys (though she is too polite to name names). If you are not familiar with the asylum system, the book will provide an interesting and entertaining introduction to the people who come to our country for refuge and those who decide their cases.

You can see more reviews of Bench Pressed and buy the book here.

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