Monday, June 20, 2011

Good news for U.S. asylum seekers on World Refugee Day: June 20


A Court of Appeals decision came just in time for World Refugee Day, an annual event commorated every June 20. World Refugee Day raises awareness of the obstacles facing more than 11 million refugees worldwide. Today's decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Singh v. Holder upholds the rights of men and women who come to the United States seeking protection from persecution.  
U.S. immigration laws require individuals seeking asylum to apply for that protection within one year of their arrival in the United States. Nirmal Singh appealed the immigration judge’s rejection of his asylum case when a judge found that it was not enough for Mr. Singh to testify as to his date of entry. He also had to produce documentary corroboration to show when he entered the United States, according to that ruling. 
The Court of Appeals rejected this ruling, thus permitting greater access to human rights protections for thousands of asylum seekers. They commonly flee their countries of origin under precarious circumstances and often are unable to provide documents proving when they entered the United States.  
From the perspective of an asylum seeker, the problem of letting immigration judges deny asylum claims because they think an applicant could have produced more evidence is not tenable. Asylum seekers often obtain evidence only at great risk to themselves or their families, and documenting U.S. entry dates is particularly problematic. A study released in October 2010 found that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the highest level of administrative appeal for individuals in immigration proceedings, failed to provide meaningful review of asylum cases that were rejected by immigration judges because of the one-year deadline.
“We hope the court’s decision will encourage the BIA to more closely examine rulings that deny asylum claims based on the one-year deadline,” said Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) Director of Litigation Chuck Roth. “Every time an asylum claim is wrongly rejected due to a perceived failure to file on time, a person is potentially subject to deportation to face torture or persecution.”

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