Category: State Department Reports

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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Seventh Circuit Holds that Country Reports Might Not Be Credible and Should Not Be Used when Ruling on Asylum Applications

In a recently published decision, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals’ reliance on country reports in asylum cases is erroneous when there are reports that contradict the information included in them. In Zheng, an alien was  ordered removed because she allegedly did not prove a fear of persecution if she were removed to the Fugian region in China. She alleged that she was forced by the Chinese government to undergo an abortion when she was a minor. She also alleged that she has two United States citizen children and that she might be persecuted if she were to return to China.
The Immigration Judge denied her application and the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the decision. She filed for review by the Seventh Circuit. The main reason behind the BIA’s decision was a 2007 State Department report alleging that forced abortions were no longer wide-spread in the region. The seventh Circuit recited its previous decisions on the issue and reversed the decision. The court reasoned that it had ruled in one of its prior decisions that this assertion in the country report was not supported by facts since there are several reports that contradict the assertion that forced abortions are no longer wide-spread in the region. Thus, the court granted the petition for review and remanded the case to the BIA. 
This is a very interesting decision since immigration practitioners like myself have been challenging the reliability of State Department country conditions reports on several grounds. One of these arguments is the fact that the information in the reports cannot be authenticated and is sometimes highly unreliable and politicized. This is a win for the little guy.