Category: asylum fraud

Applying for Asylum? Should you?

This week, I will be traveling to Miami to represent a client in an asylum interview. In this post, I will be discussing eligibility for asylum in simple terms.  I will also provide a list of important resources one could use when applying for asylum.
Asylum law is the international community’s recognition that some individuals would be threatened if they were forced to return to their homeland. According to the High Commissioner of Human Rights, this practice is one of the oldest traditions in human history. National laws are used to establish eligibility for this form of protection. Under our laws, the process of establishing eligibility is a complicated one. An asylum seeker could apply for protection overseas, where he or she applies for asylum through an international agency. However, one a person is in the US, the Department of Homeland Security adjudicates these petitions.
To qualify as an asylum seeker, one must meet the definition of refugee under the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The Act defines a refugee as :”any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality . . . and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. INA § 101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A).
It seems like such definition should encompass many categories and should be straightforward. It suffices to say that one of the most appealed petitions in immigration law is the petition for asylum I-589. Most of the immigration cases that reach circuit review around the United States involve asylum petitions. Many people believe that the application is a straightforward one. Sometimes, the application is such; however, when the threats are not crystallized or there is a fear of future harm, one should really hire an attorney. Most of these appeals involved applicants whose petitions were not clear enough to convince the adjudicator that they were harmed or would face harm if returned to their countries.  It is very important to consult an attorney before you apply, and if you can not afford one, please visit this link to find a free attorney in your state. Please do not apply on your own, and consult an attorney, specially since the chances of success are very low (see graph below).
So to answer the question above,  consult an attorney before you apply and do discuss other options if the attorney recommends against filing. Please comment if you have any questions.
Asylum Statistics
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Asylum Fraud In Chinatown

The New York Times published a story over the weekend discussing asylum fraud in Chinatown, NY. The article spoke about the widespread fraud in asylum applications, with attorneys, clergy, and paralegals helping applicants fabricate stories to shore up their asylum applications. The fraud has led to the indictment of several people, including eight attorneys. The indictments came as the result of a federal investigation, which recorded several individuals coaching their clients. The fraudulent applications have led to severe backlogs at the asylum office in New York, with more than 7000 applications files in 2012. 
What really surprised me that the majority of indicted attorneys still believe that they did not commit any illegal acts. They simply believed that they were helping these applicants stay in the United States. This is clearly a violation of the ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(d), which prohibits aiding a client in committing fraud.  
Throughout my years of practicing immigration law, I have been asked to commit fraud by potential new clients and clients I represented. Usually, these conversations are very brief and end after I ask that person to leave my office or when I file a motion to withdraw if I am representing the person in removal proceedings or before the Service. I know that people would want to blame all lawyers for this conduct. However, like in other any profession, there are attorneys who choose to sell their reputation for money. 
I am reminded of one of the last scenes of one of my favorite movies “A Few Good Men“, when one of the defendants asks the other “what did we do wrong?.” The answer was “we were supposed to help people who could not help themselves”. As attorneys, and particularly immigration attorneys, we are entrusted with helping the weak apply to stay in the Land of the Free. We have taken oaths that we would not take cases for personal gains. I believe that these attorneys should receive the strictest punishment available under the law.  I will keep you updated on this case.