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Posts Tagged ‘persecution’

Immigration Judge Calls for Independent Immigration Courts as Part of Immigration Reform

July 15th, 2011 1 comment
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The National Association of Immigration Judges believes that establishment of an independent agency or Article I court (like the tax or bankruptcy courts) rather than the current placement of the courts within the Department of Justice, is an essential reform. Only with this independence will the immigration courts be able to obtain the resources needed to ensure that each and every asylum case gets the in-depth scrutiny that both the applicant and the people of the United States deserve it receive.

Asylum adjudications are emotionally charged and legally complex. If a genuine refugee is erroneously denied relief, she may face torture or death in her home country. Because someone fleeing persecution may not be able to obtain documents, many cases are decided on testimony alone.

The immigration courts are a crucial checkpoint where fraudulent asylum claims can be ferreted out. Credibility determinations made at this juncture are given great deference by reviewing courts. As important as their role is, immigration courts are often the forgotten piece of this system, with funding a mere afterthought. Drastically under-resourced, the average pending caseload of an immigration judge is 1,200 cases. Judges struggle with one judicial law clerk for every four judges, instead of the three clerks that most federal district court judges have, although they handle one third the number of cases.

Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, July 12, 2011. She has served as an immigration judge in San Francisco since 1987.

Are Immigration Court Judges Overworked and Burning Out?

January 17th, 2011 No comments
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Immigration-court judges “suffer from significant symptoms of secondary traumatic stress and more burnout” than prison wardens or physicians in busy hospitals, according to a 2007 study led by Stuart Lustig, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

More female judges reported being burned-out than male judges.

Writing anonymously, judges expressed how tough it is to hear asylum cases and how much stress they felt by the caseload burden, pressure from the Justice Department to complete cases and criticism by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Here are some of their thoughts:

* “As an Immigration Judge, I have to hear the worst of the worst that has ever happened to any human being, particularly in asylum cases. I have to listen to the trauma suffered by individuals. I have to hear it on a daily basis. It’s emotionally draining and painful to listen to such horrors day in and day out.”

* “The combination of hearing traumatic stories and not knowing which ones to believe is what is so mentally and emotionally exhausting. It is really hard work, and we are not given enough recovery time within our busy schedules.”

* “The major stressors are having to complete a high volume of cases in an environment of completion goals and under the microscopic scrutiny of appellate courts, which may not understand the pressures the judge faces on a daily basis.”

Ninth Circuit Allows for Asylum Claims for Guatemalan Women

July 23rd, 2010 No comments
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A federal appeals court ruling Monday created the possibility that Guatemalan women could qualify for political asylum in the U.S. because of the high female murder rate in the Central American country.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a strongly worded ruling reversing the deportation orders of two immigration courts that such a claim applies too broadly. The San Francisco-based court ordered the immigration judges, who work in the U.S. Department of Justice, to reconsider granting asylum to Lesly Yajayra Perdomo, an illegal immigrant in her mid-30s who settled in Reno, Nev.

Most important, the court ordered the Board of Immigration Appeals to determine whether all Guatemalan women can qualify, a decision which would open the door to similar claims from other countrieswith high female murder rate in Central America,  such as El Salvador, Honduras and others with history of widespread gender abuse.

This is the first such case to reach this high in the United States’ court system, which has grappled with determining gender-based claims for asylum.

Perdomo followed her mother to the U.S. in 1991 when she was 15 and settled in Reno, where she graduated high school and found work in the health care industry.

In 2003, the Immigration and Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings and she applied for asylum the next year citing Guatemala’s poor record of investigating and solving the hundreds of murders of women annually. The appeals court noted that the Board of Immigration, which rejected Perdomo’s asylum petition, has never addressed whether gender itself could be the basis for an asylum claim.

On Monday, the appeals court said past decisions suggest that women in Guatemala may qualify for asylum, which includes citizenship and is granted to those showing they were persecuted because of religion, political beliefs, race, nationality or membership in a particular social group.

Perdomo asked the court to include Guatemalan women as a “particular social group” eligible for asylum.

“While we have not held expressly that females, without other defining characteristics, constitute a particular social group, we have concluded that females, or young girls of a particular clan, met our definition of a particular social group,” Judge Richard Paez wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.

Unless there is an appeal, the case goes back to the Board of Immigration Appeals to determine if Perdomo should be granted asylum.

American Asylum Laws Offer Little Protection for Those Persecuted by Central American Gangs

July 5th, 2010 1 comment
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Immigration judges have rejected asylum for people running from Central American gangs on the grounds that the threats were vague and that the petitioners’ lives did not appear to be truly at risk.

However, the cases of two Salvadorans, Benito Zaldívar, who was killed, and Nelson Benítez Ramos, have added new credibility to those claims. They have increased the pressure on the courts and the Obama administration to clarify asylum law so foreigners facing life-threatening dangers from gangs would have a chance at refuge in the US.

In Mr. Zaldívar’s case, the Board of Immigration Appeals found that he had failed to show that the gang he feared was specifically coming after him.  After his asylum petition failed, he was deported to El Salvador. His murder just two months later was the proof he foretold that his fears of the gang were not exaggerated.

Generally, legal standards for asylum in the United States are not easy to meet. Asylum seekers must show they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or “membership in a particular social group.”

According to the United Nations Development Program, Central America is the most violent region of the world, with the exception of those regions where some countries are at war or are experiencing severe political violence. Additionally, the bloodshed in Central American came primarily from criminal gangs.

At the same time, American immigration judges, are always careful not to grant asylum to any flood, making it more difficult for Central Americans running from gangs. In a landmark ruling in 2008, the Board of Immigration Appeals denied a petition by three Salvadoran teenagers who fled recruitment by a gang called the MS-13, saying they had not shown that they were in more peril than Salvadorans in general.

“Gang violence and crime in El Salvador appear to be widespread, and the risk of harm is not limited to young males who have resisted recruitment,” the board found.

The judges created several legal hurdles for asylum seekers fleeing gangs, requiring them to prove that they are part of a “particular social group” that is widely recognized in their home society as being under attack, something like a persecuted ethnic minority.

Some federal appeals courts have taken the same view. Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, has repeatedly rejected the new standards as “illogical” and “perverse.”

In March, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. formally declined to step in to clarify the administration’s position. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, offered a refugee bill in March that would erase the recent court decisions and return to a less complicated standard that some people escaping gangs could hope to meet.

Meanwhile, Mr. Benítez, with a gang tattoo on his forehead, literally a marked man, waits in El Salvador after being deported last year.

9th Circuit: Asylum Wrongfully Denied to Chinese Christians Assisting North Korean Refugees

March 25th, 2009 No comments
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The Ninth Circuit ruled that the immigration judge wrongfully denied asylum cases for three Chinese Christians who were persecuted and abused for helping North Korean refugees escape North Korea. It is very common for North Korean refugees to escape their home country by fleeing to China, then migrating to Southeast Asia and eventually travelling to Japan or South Korea. The trip is grueling, and it is difficult to get through China without being discovered.

According to the Ninth Circuit, the immigration judge incorrectly ruled that the Chinese nationals were being prosecuted for criminal acts rather than persecuted. This is a common issue in asylum cases. Many asylum seekers flee their home country to avoid being imprisoned or tortured. U.S. asylum law does not allow asylum if the individual is merely attempting to avoid legitimate prosecution (e.g. theft); however, if an individual is in danger of prosecution for an illegitimate reason (e.g. religious beliefs), asylum is available.

The Nunez Firm has vast experience with asylum cases. I have helped numerous clients obtain asylee status in the United States. Contact The Nunez Firm today to discuss your immigration situation, and I can help you determine if you have a potential asylum case.

President Obama extends Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians

March 24th, 2009 No comments
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The U.S. has provided safe haven for Liberians who fled their country due to the war since 1991. In 2003, the armed conflict ended; however, the United States instituted a deferred enforced departure program which has allowed Liberians to remain in the United States. The DED program was set to expire on March 31, 2009 until President Obama extended the program for another year.

Asylum Office Agrees to Reconsider Gay Man’s Asylum Case.

March 8th, 2009 2 comments
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In November 2008, the U.S. Asylum Office denied Dunrick Sogie-Thomas’s asylum claim that he would be subject to persecution due to his homosexuality if he were returned to Sierra Leone.

At the time of his original asylum claim, Mr. Sogie-Thomas was not represented by counsel; however, after his denial, he retained a pro bono attorney. The Asylum Office invited Mr. Sogie-Thomas to re-interview with a new asylum officer on Monday.

In his home country of Sierra Leone, homosexuality is punishable by life in prison. Additionally, it is likely that homosexuals are persecuted by Sierra Leone society, as is the case in many countries.

The Nunez Firm has experience in all types of asylum cases. We can help prepare a persuasive and effective asylum case, and accompany you at your asylum interview. If you fear that you will be harmed by the government or another group if you return to your home country, call The Nunez Firm today to discuss the possibility of asylum. Successful asylum-seekers can obtain a green card and eventually U.S. citizenship. The consultation is free and 100% confidential.

U.S. Supreme Court rules that asylum seeker is not barred due to role in forced persecution

March 3rd, 2009 1 comment
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A person may be granted asylum in the United States if s/he has a well-founded fear of future persecution based on his/her race, religion, nationality, particular social group, or political opinion if returned to his/her home country. There are several rules that reduce the availability of asylum including time limits and criminal history. One longstanding rule is that individuals that have acted as persecutors in the past are not eligible for asylum.

This rule has been applied often with asylum cases from Africa. For example, in Rwanda in the 1990s, Hutus persecuted and killed approximately 800,000 or more Tutsis. The genocide and civil war ended when a Tutsi rebel force invaded Rwanda and took over the government. In the aftermath, many Hutus fled Rwanda fearing persecution. The Hutus that were found to have participated in the Genocide were deemed ineligible for asylum.

The Supreme Court decision this morning made a distinction between those that participated in persecution voluntarily and those that were conscripted into a persecuting group involuntarily. Daniel Negusie was forced to join the Eritrean army in its war against Ethiopia. He served as a prison guard, and he was found to have performed acts of persecution. Mr. Negusie’s argument was that he was forced to join the army and forced to perform acts of persecution. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that Mr. Negusie was not barred from asylum because his participation as a persecutor was forced.

This decision is important because the Supreme Court is signaling lower courts that they must look hard at the facts of each individual case. If an individual was freely involved in acts of persecution, that individual does not deserve asylum in the United States. However, an individual confronted with the impossible choice of participating in a persecuting group or being killed by the persecuting group should not be treated the same way.

If you fear returning to your home country, you may be eligible for asylum in the United States. Contact The Nunez Firm to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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