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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

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  1. DACA Reform and Its Hostages (i.e., Asylum Seekers)

    President Trump recently sent a letter to Congress laying out his "Administration's principles for reforming our Nation's immigration system." In effect, this is what the President wants in exchange for agreeing to legalize DACA recipients (also known as Dreamers). Whether this is an opening bid or a final offer remains to be seen, but many Democrats and some Republicans seem to view the proposal as a non-starter.


    Haggling over brown people? Where have I seen that before?

    While the President's letter covers a wide range of topics--from the border wall to hiring more ICE agents to eliminating the DV lottery--I want to focus here on the possible effects on our asylum system. Specifically, Section 1-C of the letter, Asylum Reform, lists the Administration's ideas for "correcting the systemic deficiencies that created that [asylum] backlog." Would that these ideas were so benign.

    Below, I have listed the text of the President's letter in bold, and added my comments (and complaints) in italics. Without further ado, here is the President's proposal with commentary:

    The massive asylum backlog has allowed illegal immigrants to enter and stay in the United States by exploiting asylum loopholes.
    It seems what the President means by "asylum loopholes" is the asylum process itself. But asylum is not a "loophole." It is the law, which says that if a person is physically present in the U.S. and he fears persecution in his home country, he can apply for asylum and stay here until his case is adjudicated. An executive order from the President cannot nullify this, but Congress and the President together can change the asylum law. I have not seen any movement in that direction, at least not yet.

    There are more than 270,000 pending cases in the asylum backlog before USCIS, and approximately 250,000 asylum cases before EOIR. Therefore, the Administration proposes correcting the systemic deficiencies that created that backlog.
    I don't get to say this too often, but I agree with Trump! The backlog is way too large, and we need to reduce it. The Administration wants to hire 370 new Immigration Judges and 1,000 ICE attorneys. I've written before about some constructive and low-cost ideas for reducing the backlog. If anyone in the Administration is interested, you can see my thoughts here.

    i. Significantly tighten standards and eliminate loopholes in our asylum system.
    It's not clear which standards would be tightened and which loopholes eliminated. There are plenty of changes that could be made. Some might be productive (such as cracking down on notario and attorney fraud); others would likely result in eligible aliens being denied asylum and returned to face persecution (raising the evidentiary bar, for example). One area of concern for the Administration is asylum seekers at the border who arrive here and are then paroled into the U.S. Whether we could block such people without violating our treaty obligations (and our moral values) is an open question. Of course, Congress has the power to override treaties, but the unintended consequences of such a move might do (additional) damage to our standing in the world.

    ii. Elevate the threshold standard of proof in credible fear interviews.
    Presumably, this will go beyond what the Trump Administration has already done to make it more difficult for asylum seekers arriving at the border or an airport. Again, how much can be done without abrogating our treaty obligations is unclear, but certainly Congress and the President can make it more difficult for people arriving here and requesting asylum upon arrival.

    iii. Impose and enforce penalties for the filing of frivolous, baseless, or fraudulent asylum applications, and expand the use of expedited removal as appropriate.
    Why these two proposals did not warrant their own Roman numerals, I do not know. As for the first, there are already severe immigration consequences for filing a frivolous asylum application (including a bar to all benefits under the INA), but I suppose the penalties could always be made worse. Also, the Trump Administration has already set forth a policy on expedited removal, so perhaps the new proposal would incorporate those ideas (which basically expands the temporal and geographic boundaries of expedited removal).

    iv. Close loopholes in the law to bar terrorist aliens from entering the country and receiving any immigration benefits.
    As you might imagine, the immigration law currently has no provisions what-so-ever to block terrorists from coming here. Amazing that no one noticed this before. Lucky for us, some keen-eyed Trump Administration official caught the problem, and so now we can finally make some rules blocking terrorists. Whew!

    v. Clarify and enhance the legal definition of “aggravated felony” to ensure that criminal aliens do not receive certain immigration benefits.
    An alien convicted of an aggravated felony is ineligible for most immigration benefits, including asylum. I agree that the definition of aggravated felony could use some work--some offenses that might seem serious (like assault and battery against a police officer) are generally not aggravated felonies under the Immigration Act; other crimes that seem minor (such as shoplifting) might be an aggravated felony. It's clearly not equitable. My fear is that the Trump Administration will blindly expand the definition of aggravated felony so that any crime--no matter how minor--will bar asylum seekers from the U.S. and will needlessly divide more families through deportation.

    vi. Expand the ability to return asylum seekers to safe third countries.
    The idea of sending asylum seekers back to the last "safe" country they passed through is not new. For various reasons, I doubt it is the magic bullet that some immigration resrictionists think it is. For one thing, it is difficult to know whether a particular country is safe, and so I suspect that such a provision might just shift the battle from the fear of persecution in the home country to whether the third country is "safe." Also, whether the "safe" countries will agree to accept non-citizens we send their way seems doubtful.

    vii. Ensure only appropriate use of parole authority for aliens with credible fear or asylum claims, to deter meritless claims and ensure the swift removal of those whose claims are denied.
    This provision probably involves closing "loopholes" at the border. Here, some data might be useful. Is there any evidence that paroled aliens commit crimes? How often do such people fail to appear for court hearings? What is the cost of detaining such individuals? Making rational and effective policies requires answering such questions before taking action.

    viii. Prevent aliens who have been granted asylum or who entered as refugees from obtaining lawful permanent resident status if they are convicted of an aggravated felony.
    There is a waiver available to refugees and asylees who commit crimes (INA § 209(c)), including in some cases, aggravated felonies. However, BIA case law largely already prevents aggravated felons from taking advantage of the waiver. My main problem with eliminating the waiver is that it will result in people being deported to countries where they face harm, even for relatively minor crimes (many minor crimes are considered aggravated felonies already, and the Trump Administration plans to broaden the definition of aggravated felony even further).

    ix. Require review of the asylee or refugee status of an alien who returns to their home country absent a material change in circumstances or country conditions.
    Asylees who return home are already subject to having their status terminated. So like many of the provisions listed here, this one seems like piling on. Also, there are legitimate reasons why some asylees need to return home--to see sick family members, for example. Also, in some cases, asylees do not fear their home government; they fear terrorist groups in their country. Such people can return home for a brief period, but if they remain in their country for the long term, they face great danger. The current law recognizes this, and makes some exceptions for asylees who return home. This seems more fair than a blanket prohibition.

    None of these provisions have yet been implemented or incorporated into law, and we will have to see how negotiations proceed. The Administration can argue that it is fair to bargain with the fate of DACA recipients in order to "reform" our immigration system (which certainly does need reforming). And perhaps that is the reality of politics. But I can't help think there is a better way, and that it is not necessary to pit one minority group against another, and to hold so many innocent people hostage to a political agenda.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.

    Updated 10-17-2017 at 11:48 AM by JDzubow

    Tags: asylum, daca Add / Edit Tags
  2. The New Travel Ban, Asylum Seekers, and I-730 Petitions

    As you might have heard, the White House recently issued a new travel ban (official known as the Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats), and this one looks more likely to survive a court challenge than previous bans. This time around, the "banned" countries are Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and certain government officials from Venezuela.


    Moose limb ban.

    Here I want to look at how the ban will impact asylum seekers, asylees (people who already have asylum), and I-730 petitions, which are petitions filed by asylees to bring their relatives (spouse and minor, unmarried children) to the United States. One caveat: Even though the latest travel ban seems more well-crafted than prior iterations, it likely will still be subject to court challenges, and it will have to be interpreted and implemented by various government agencies, so how individuals will actually be affected is not yet entirely clear. With that out of the way, here's how things look now:

    Asylum Seekers

    The short answer here is that asylum seekers who are already in the U.S. should not be affected by the new ban. Section 6(e) provides--

    Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture, consistent with the laws of the United States.

    Also, it appears that asylum seekers who want to travel while their cases are pending, using Advance Parole, should be able to do so. Section 3(b) states--

    The suspension of entry pursuant to section 2 of this proclamation shall not apply to... any foreign national who has a document other than a visa -- such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document -- valid on the applicable effective date under section 7 of this proclamation [all bars will be in effect by October 18, 2017] or issued on any date thereafter, that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

    The original travel ban (from January 2017) was intended to impact asylum seekers. Basically, USCIS was directed to adjudicate their cases up until the decision, but to hold the decision until the ban was lifted. That never actually went into effect. This new ban, which is more carefully tailored, does not seem to impose any restrictions or limitations on the asylum process or on asylum seekers, and so we can expect that such cases will proceed as before.

    Asylees

    People who have been granted asylum are asylees. I see nothing in the proclamation that would inhibit asylees' rights in the U.S. They should be able to work, travel (using an appropriate travel document), and eventually get their green card and their U.S. citizenship as before.

    I-730 Petitions

    When a person is granted asylum, she can file to bring her spouse and minor, unmarried children to the United States using a form I-730. Whether people from the banned countries will still be able to bring their "following to join" family members here may be problematic, at least as I read the President's order. Section 3(a) states--

    [S]uspensions of and limitations on entry… shall apply only to foreign nationals of the designated countries who: (i) are outside the United States on the applicable effective date under section 7 of this proclamation; (ii) do not have a valid visa on the applicable effective date under section 7 of this proclamation; and (iii) do not qualify for a visa or other valid travel document under section 6(d) of this proclamation [certain individuals whose visas were marked revoked or canceled by the first travel ban].

    Basically, this means that people outside the U.S. from a "banned" country cannot get a visa to come here. There are some exceptions to this rule in section 3(b), but none of them seem to apply to I-730 beneficiaries. The closest I can see to an exception for following-to-join asylees appears in section 3(b)(vi)--

    The suspension of entry pursuant to section 2 of this proclamation shall not apply to... any foreign national who has been granted asylum by the United States; any refugee who has already been admitted to the United States; or any individual who has been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.

    Perhaps I-730 beneficiaries can argue that they fall within this exception, but frankly, I don't see it. If these beneficiaries do not meet an exception, they can apply for a waiver to allow them to join their asylee relative in the U.S., even though they are banned from coming here. The waiver process, discussed in section 6(c), seems complex, but the short answer is that waivers are granted in the discretion of the consular officer or other government official and are issued on a case-by-case basis. Further--

    A waiver may be granted only if a foreign national demonstrates to the consular officer's or CBP official's satisfaction that: (A) denying entry would cause the foreign national undue hardship; (B) entry would not pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States; and (C) entry would be in the national interest.

    The proclamation gives some examples of when a waiver might be appropriate, including where the "foreign national has previously established significant contacts with the United States" or where "the foreign national seeks to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member (e.g., a spouse, child, or parent) who is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and the denial of entry would cause the foreign national undue hardship." None of the examples specifically refers to asylees or I-730 beneficiaries, and so there is an open question about whether such people are able to join their asylee family members in the United States.

    We will have to see how the Trump Administration implements the ban with regards to I-730s. Hopefully, such people will be allowed to join their family members in the U.S. If not, you can bet that the matter will be litigated in court, and I imagine that the asylees would have a strong case. The United States has ratified the Protocol on the Status of Refugees, and so that treaty has the force and effect of law. The Protocol (and the Refugee Convention that is incorporated into the Protocol) essentially commits treaty countries to ensure family unity for refugees. See also INA 208(b). A Presidential proclamation cannot nullify this law, and so any attempt by the Trump Administration to block following-to-join relatives will likely not succeed, though of course the Administration can throw obstacles in the way of such people and cause plenty of hardship, stress, and uncertainty for this already-vulnerable group of individuals.

    So there you have it. Again, we will have to wait to see how the new ban is implemented and whether it will be affected by litigation. Hopefully, my concerns about I-730 beneficiaries will not come to pass, and asylum seekers, asylees, and their family members will not be harmed by the latest travel ban.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
  3. New Rule Spells Potential Trouble for Asylees

    There’s a new State Department rule in town about misrepresentation, and it could signal trouble for certain asylum seekers and others who enter the country on non-immigrant visas and then seek to remain here permanently or engage in other behavior inconsistent with their visas.

    The State Department has a long tradition of blocking visas for people facing persecution (if you don't believe me, Google "Breckinridge Long").

    To understand the problem, we first need to talk a bit about non-immigrant visas (“NIV”). To obtain an NIV, you have to promise to comply with the terms of that visa. One common NIV requirement is that you must intend to leave the U.S. at the end of your period of authorized stay (some NIVs are exempt from this requirement, most notably the H1b and the L, which are known as "dual intent" visas). Another common NIV requirement is that the visa-holder should not work in the U.S. without permission. If you breach these requirements, there are often—but not always—immigration consequences.

    For example, up until the rule change, if an alien entered the U.S. on a B or F visa, or on the Visa Waiver Program, and then filed to “adjust status” (i.e., get a green card) within 30 days of arrival, the alien was presumed to have had an “immigration intent” at the time of entry, and thus USCIS would assume that she lied about her intention to leave the U.S. at the end of her authorized stay (in government-speak, this is called a misrepresentation). If she violated her status between 30 and 60 days after arrival, USCIS might still decide that she misrepresented her intentions when she got the visa (this was known as the 30/60 day rule). If she filed for the green card on day 61 or beyond, she would generally be safe. There are exceptions and caveats to all this, but you get the picture.

    Enter the new rule, which appears in the State Department’s Field Adjudications Manual (at 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)):

    [If] an alien violates or engages in conduct inconsistent with his or her nonimmigrant status within 90 days of entry… you [the consular officer] may presume that the applicant’s representations about engaging in only status-compliant activity were willful misrepresentations of his or her intention in seeking a visa or entry.

    This change specifically affects people applying for visas at U.S. consulates, but it seems likely that USCIS could adopt the rule as well, which would mean that people who come to the United States on certain NIVs and who engaged in “non-status-compliant activity” within 90 days of arrival will be presumed to have lied in order to obtain their visas. All this means that the 30/60 day rule is dead, at least so far as the State Department is concerned, and probably for USCIS as well.

    This is all pretty boring and confusing, you say. What does it have to do with asylum seekers?

    The issue is, if a person comes to the United States and applies for asylum within 90 days of arrival, he might be considered to have lied about his “immigration intent” in order to obtain a U.S. visa. In other words, requesting asylum (and thus asking to stay permanently in the United States) is not consistent with coming here on most NIVs, which require that you promise to leave the U.S. at the end of your authorized stay.

    This problem is not just academic. I’ve recently heard from a colleague whose client came to the U.S., won asylum, and obtained a green card. But when the client applied for citizenship, USCIS accused him of a “misrepresentation” because he entered the country on an NIV and then sought to remain here permanently through asylum. This example comes amidst several cases—including one of my own—where USCIS seems to have pushed the boundaries of the law in order to deny citizenship to asylees. It also seems part of a larger pattern to "bury lawyers and their clients in requests for more and more documentation, and clarification on points that were already extremely clear in the initial filing."

    I should note that the above examples are not related to the new State Department rule (probably), though if USCIS implements a similar rule, it would potentially expose many more asylees (and other USCIS applicants) to the same fate.

    It’s a little hard to understand what USCIS is trying to do here, or why they are doing it. For one things, there is a waiver available to refugees and asylees who commit fraud (the waiver forgives fraud and allows the person to remain in the United States). Also, when a person fears persecution in her country and qualifies for asylum, low-grade misrepresentations are routinely forgiven. So the likelihood that any asylee would ultimately be deported for having lied to get a visa is close to zero. In other words, USCIS can delay the process, and cause these asylees a lot of stress and expense, but in the end, they will remain here and most likely become U.S. citizens (eventually).

    Perhaps this is the Trump Administration’s implementation of “extreme vetting.” If so, it’s more appearance than substance. It looks as if something is happening, but really, nothing is happening. Except of course that USCIS is mistreating people who have come to the United States and demonstrated that they have a well-founded fear of harm in their home countries. So—like a Stalinist show trial—such people will admit their “misrepresentations” (in many cases, for the second, third or fourth time), go through the hassle, stress, and expense of the waiver process, and then end up staying here just the same.

    It’s too bad. USCIS can do a lot of good—for immigrants and for our national security. But unfortunately, their current path will not lead to improvements in either realm.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com
    Tags: asylum, fraud, uscis Add / Edit Tags
  4. Advance Parole: Overseas Travel for Asylum Seekers

    When government scientists invented Advance Parole (“AP”), they were not thinking about asylum seekers. Even today, if you look at the instructions to form I-131, the form used to apply for AP, you’ll find nary a word about asylum seekers (though asylees—people already granted asylum—can apply for a Refugee Travel Document using the same form). But fear not: People who have filed affirmatively for asylum and who are waiting for their interview can file for AP in order to travel abroad and return while their case is pending.

    First, a brief word about asylum seekers who are not eligible to travel and return using AP. People who are in removal proceedings (i.e., in Immigration Court) cannot leave the U.S. and return, even if they have AP. If you are in removal proceedings, it means the government is trying to deport you, and if you leave, you are considered to have deported yourself. Thus, even if you apply for AP and receive the travel document, if you leave the United States, you will be deported, and thus barred from return. And yes, I am sure that there is a story about your third cousin’s best friend who was in Immigration Court, and who left and returned using AP. To that, I say: Talk to your cousin’s friend’s lawyer (and if you learn something, let me know!). My opinion is that if you are in removal proceedings and you leave the U.S., either you won’t get back here at all, or you will be detained upon arrival.

    Another group that may be ineligible to travel using AP are J-1 visa holders subject to the pesky two-year home residency requirement. There are more people like this than you might imagine, and for such people, I recommend you talk to a lawyer about AP. Asylum basically “erases” the home residency requirement, but it is unclear (at least to me) whether this will work for purposes of AP while the asylum application is still pending.

    Also, there was a group of people who were ineligible for AP, but who are now eligible. It is people who have six months or more of “unlawful presence.” If a person remains in the U.S. after her period of stay ends, she accrues unlawful presence (you stop accruing unlawful presence once you file for asylum). If she accrues six months of unlawful presence and leaves, she is barred from returning for three years. If she has one year or more of unlawful presence and then leaves, she cannot return for 10 years. Prior to 2012, if a person had six or more months of unlawful presence and left, she could not return to the U.S., even with AP. However, a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals changed the rule, and so now, even if you have unlawful presence, you can leave the U.S. and return using Advance Parole. Thank you BIA!

    There might be other people who are also ineligible to travel--people with criminal convictions or prior removal/deportation orders, for example. If you are not sure, you should certainly talk to a lawyer before applying for AP or traveling.

    Next, let’s talk about what AP is and is not. If you get AP, you will receive a piece of paper with your photo on it. This paper works like a U.S. visa. It allows you to board the plane (or boat, if, like me, you hate flying), and pass through customs once you arrive at the port of entry. AP is not a passport or a Refugee Travel Document. You cannot use it to go to other countries or as a form of ID. If you travel with AP, you also need a passport. Keep in mind that traveling with a passport from a country where you fear persecution can raise questions at the asylum interview about why you would “avail” yourself of the protection of your country by using its passport. You should be prepared to respond to such questions, with evidence, during your interview.

    So how do you apply for AP? Use form I-131. This one magic form can be used for all sorts of different applications: AP, Refugee Travel Document, DACA (at least for the next couple weeks), humanitarian parole. If you are applying for AP, complete only the portions of the form that apply to Advance Parole. You need to include evidence of a pending asylum case (receipts, biometrics notice), two passport-size photos, a copy of your passport or other government-issued photo ID (like an EAD card), and the filing fee (a whopping $575.00 as of this writing).

    Also, you need to demonstrate a humanitarian need for the travel. It is not enough that you simply want to travel. A humanitarian reason might be that you are traveling to receive medical treatment or going to visit a seriously ill relative. It might also be because you are attending a funeral for a close relative. We have sought AP for people who needed to travel for work or education, though that was pre-Trump, and I would not feel particularly optimistic about such an application today.

    To demonstrate a humanitarian need for AP, you need to provide a written explanation for the travel. You also need to provide evidence: A letter from the doctor, in the case of medical travel, or a death certificate if you are traveling for a funeral. If you are trying to travel for work or education, you need a letter from your job or school, plus an explanation of why the travel is "humanitarian." In addition, if you are traveling to visit a sick relative, provide proof of the relationship, such as birth or marriage certificates connecting you to your relative.

    On the form I-131, you need to state the dates of proposed travel. Don't make the date too soon, or USCIS will not be able to process the paperwork before your travel date, and then they will send a request for evidence asking you to explain whether you still plan to travel since your departure date passed before AP was approved.

    Also, it may be possible to expedite a request for AP, or even to get AP on an emergency basis, though you can bet that the bureaucrats at USCIS will not make the process easy. For more information about such requests, see the USCIS Ombudsman webpage.

    Finally, and this is important, if you are an asylum seeker and you use AP to visit your home country, it will very likely cause your asylum case to be denied. Indeed, unless you can demonstrate "compelling reasons" for returning to your country, your asylum application will be deemed abandoned by the return trip. You can learn more about that here.

    So there you have it. Most lawyers--including this one--discourage our clients from traveling with AP. There is always a risk when you leave the U.S. You might have trouble boarding a return flight. You could be detained upon arrival in the United States. Our capricious President might issue a new travel ban. But so far (knock on wood), we have not had any problems for our clients who traveled using AP. I do think it is better to stay in the country while your asylum application is pending, but given the long waits, some people must travel. If so, at least AP gives most people that option.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
  5. Translating Documents for Your Asylum Case

    The word "translation" is derived from "trans," meaning "across" two languages, and "elation," meaning "to make your lawyer happy." Or something like that. The point is, if your translations are correct, you are more likely to win your case and so you--and your lawyer--will be happy.

    If you think accurate translations are not important, please stay away from my garden.

    But many asylum seekers are unable (or unwilling) to pay for professional translations, which can be quite costly. Instead, they do the translations themselves, or they use a friend who speaks "good English" (technically, anyone who claims to speak "good English" does not speak English very well). The problem faced by these non-professionals is that translating documents is not as easy as it looks.

    I ran into this problem recently, when a keen-eyed DHS attorney discovered that my client's translations were incorrect. The client had submitted several translated documents when he applied for asylum at the Asylum Office (using a different lawyer). These documents included a newspaper article, a police report, and several witness letters. The quality of the translations was poor, and so we asked the client to obtain better translations. Unfortunately, the new translator embellished some of the translations. Instead of translating the documents literally, he tried to include what the writer meant (or what the translator believed the writer meant). This problem is all too common. Sometimes, I catch it, and other times, I don't. In this particular case, the DHS attorney caught the inconsistency, which--to state the obvious--is not great for our case.

    Poor translations can cause real problems for asylum cases. I have at least one case where an inaccurate translation resulted in the case being denied by the Asylum Office and referred to Immigration Court (where it remains pending 3+ years later--ugh).

    So how do you ensure that your translations are correct? And what happens if you can't afford a professional translator?

    First, any document that is not in English must be translated into English. For each such document, you must submit a copy of the original document (in the foreign language), an English translation, and a certificate of translation (for an example certificate of translation, see the Immigration Court Practice Manual, Appendix H).

    Second, the translation should be accurate. This seems like a no-brainer, but in my experience, it is not. Here, "accurate" means that the translator should--as much as possible--literally change each and every word of the original document into the equivalent English word. Some words are not easy to translate from one language to the next. Other words have symbolic, cultural or idiomatic meanings that may differ from their literal meaning (the word "jihad" is a good example). In that case, translate the word literally, and maybe include a footnote indicating the meaning or cultural significance of the word. The footnote should clearly indicate that it is not part of the translation (for example, it could say, "Translator's note:" and then include the explanation). Other times, the original document is vague or unclear. In that case, the translator should again literally translate the words, but can include an explanatory note. Sometimes, documents contain illegible words. For them, the translator can include a bracketed statement indicating that the text is [illegible].

    Third, while I think it is not required, I strongly prefer that the translated text look similar to the original (or sometime like a mirror image of the original, if it is a right-to-left language like Arabic). So bold or underlined words in the original should be bold or underlined in English. If the original text has different paragraphs, the English should follow a similar format. If some words in the original are centered, or shifted to one side or to a corner of the page, the translation should do the same.

    Fourth, every word of the document should be translated. For documents where that is not possible (like a newspaper where you are only interested in using one article on the page), the translator should clearly indicate what portions of the document are being translated. In this case, I prefer to highlight the original document to make clear which parts are being translated. Also, for news articles, it is important to include (in the original language and in English), the name of the newspaper, the date, the title of the article, and the author, if any. Certain documents contain a lot of unnecessary boilerplate verbiage (I'm thinking of you, Salvadoran birth certificates), and so a summary translation might be more appropriate. If you use a summary translation, you need to clearly indicate that it is a summary, not a literal translation. Whether all Judges and Asylum Officers will accept summary translations, I do not know, but we use them now and again, and we have not had any problems.

    Finally, countries sometimes use different calendars and even different clocks. In this situation, I think the best practice is to translate the date or time literally, and then include an explanatory note (for example, in the Jewish calendar, today is the second day of the month of Elul in the year 5777, and so if a Hebrew document contained that date, the English translation would look like this: "2 Elul 5777 [August 24, 2017]"). Some translators include only the date in our system (and not "2 Elul 5777"), and I have never had a Judge or Asylum Officer reject that, but I still think the better practice is the literal translation + explanatory note.

    A related issue is letters from people who do not speak English, including the asylum applicants themselves. If a person does not speak English, but submits an English letter or affidavit, there must be a "certificate of interpretation stating that the affidavit or declaration has been read to the person in a language that the person understands and that he or she understood it before signing." See Immigration Court Practice Manual, p. 48. "The certificate must also state that the interpreter is competent to translate the language of the document, and that the interpretation was true and accurate to the best of the interpreter’s abilities." Id.

    Lastly, many asylum seekers speak English and can translate documents themselves. This is fine. However, a person should not sign a certificate of translation for her own case. So if you translate your own documents, find a friend who speaks both languages to review the documents and sign the certificate of translation.

    Accurate translations can enhance credibility and help you win your case. So either find (and pay) a competent translator or - if you do it yourself or use a friend - take the time to ensure that the translations are accurate and complete. Otherwise, documents that might help your case could end up doing more harm than good.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
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