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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum


  1. American Software Mogul Denied Asylum in Guatemala

    If you're reading this on a PC, there's a good chance that your anti-virus protection is based on a program designed by John McAfee.* Mr. McAfee, 67, was a pioneer of anti-virus software, and the company that bears his name is today one of the largest anti-virus companies in the world.* At one time, his net worth exceeded $100 million, but his fortune dwindled and in 2008, he moved from the U.S. to Belize.

    There, Mr. McAfee apparently led an increasingly extreme lifestyle, which included drugs, prostitutes, and feuds with his neighbors.


    An American seeking asylum in Guatemala is kind of like a child giving presents to Santa Claus.

    It's seems Mr. McAfee also had an uneasy relationship with the authorities in his new country.* In April of this year, the Belize Gang Suppression Unit raided his house looking for a Meth lab.* Mr. McAfee was briefly detained and then released.*

    His current odyssey began on November 12, 2012 when police started searching for him as a "person of interest" in connection to the murder of his neighbor in Belize, another expatriate American, who was shot to death.

    Mr. McAfee fled to Guatemala and-like any respectable computer guy-started a blog to chronicle his ordeal.

    After almost a month on the lam, the Guatemalan authorities apprehended Mr. McAfee for entering the country illegally, and prepared to deport him to Belize.* Mr. McAfee promptly requested asylum.* Just as promptly it seems, the Guatemalan authorities denied his request.* According to the Washington Post:

    McAfee's legal team said they were preparing to appeal the denial of asylum to the country's constitutional court, a process that could give McAfee perhaps another day or two in Guatemala.* The court would have to issue a decision within 48 hours.

    For his part, Mr. McAfee appealed for his blog readers to please "email the President of Guatemala and beg him to allow the court system to proceed, to determine my status in Guatemala, and please support the political asylum that I am asking for."* He adds, "Please PLEASE be very POLITE in your communications, and I thank you."* (Mr. McAfee is blogging from jail in Guatemala, which he called a "groundbreaking activity").

    As of this writing, Mr. McAfee's asylum case is still on appeal.* But it seems to me that under the international law definition of asylum, Mr. McAfee simply does not qualify.* First, to receive asylum, a person must demonstrate that he has a well founded fear of persecution (as opposed to prosecution).* "Persecution" is (usually) some type of severe physical harm. There is no indication that Mr. McAfee will be prosecuted in Belize, let alone persecuted. He is currently a person of interest in a criminal investigation. This is a far cry from being detained and/or physically harmed.*

    Possibly, the murder investigation is a pretext for persecuting Mr. McAfee.* Indeed, he claims that there is a "political vendetta" against him because he did not "donate enough money to the government."* Even if this is the case, he must show that the persecution is "on account of" his race, religion, nationality, particular social group or political opinion.* Unless there is more to the story, failure to "donate" money to the government would not fall into one of these protected categories.

    Finally, even if Mr. McAfee faces persecution in Belize on account of a protected ground, he is still not eligible for asylum.* The reason is that he is a citizen of the United States.* Asylum is available to people who face persecution from their home country; not from a third country. To avoid persecution, Mr. McAfee could (theoretically at least) receive protection from the U.S. government. In his blog, Mr. McAfee states that he asked the United States Embassy for help, but they told him that there was nothing they could do.

    While I think that Mr. McAfee cannot qualify for asylum, I certainly believe that the government of Guatemala should not return him to Belize if there is reason to believe that he will be persecuted or tortured in that country. The UN Convention Against Torture (which Guatemala ratified) would prevent Mr. McAfee from being sent to Belize if he would be tortured there.

    While his claims seem far-fetched (the president of Belize called them "bonkers"), Mr. McAfee, like everyone else who fears harm if he is deported, should not be removed without due process of law.* Obviously, asylum law and the UN Convention Against Torture cannot be used to subvert the criminal law.* But if someone fears harm in a country, he should not be sent to that country until his claim is reviewed on the merits.* In this case, before he is sent anywhere, Guatemala and the United States (through its embassy) should ensure that Mr. McAfee does not face persecution or torture if he is returned to Belize.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist:

    Updated 07-16-2013 at 01:56 PM by JDzubow

  2. The Seven Habits of Highly Annoying Clients

    I've spent some time in this blog*dissing*immigration lawyers, so I thought it only fair to discuss some of things that immigration lawyers don't like about their asylum-seeker clients. *Of course, none of these bad habits applies to any of my clients (so please don't fire me). *With that important caveat, here are the seven habits of highly annoying clients:

    7 - Negotiate the Price:*Yes, I understand that many people come from countries where it is standard procedure to negotiate the price of something you buy. *But we are not now in that place. *In the U.S., negotiating the price is not the norm, and we lawyers really don't like doing it. *Most of us*charge a very fair price, and some of us charge too little (I sometimes hear complaints about this from my wife and kid, who keep bugging me to buy them things like food and clothing - the nerve). *While lawyers who specialize in asylum don't expect to get rich, we don't want to feel that we are being taken advantage of either. *It's difficult to do your best work when your client is not fairly compensating you for your time. *On this point, lawyers also don't like it when clients fail to pay or pay late. *To do an asylum case correctly requires a lot of time and hard work. *When a client pays too little or doesn't pay at all, it becomes much more difficult to make the effort to help the client.

    Some former Immigration Attorneys reminisce about their clients.

    6 - Change Phone Numbers Without Telling the Lawyer:*It's understandable that clients who are new and relatively unsettled in the U.S. would move and would change their phone numbers. *What's frustrating is when they change their contact information but don't tell their lawyer. *I always ask my clients for an "emergency contact;" not so much for emergencies (We need to file your form I-730 - Stat!), but to have someone else to contact if my client disappears. *Remember - if your lawyer can't find you, she can't help you with your case.

    5 - Failure to Cooperate:*I tend to give my clients a lot of homework. *I want them to get their work and school records, police reports, letters from friends and family, etc., etc. *Most clients do their best to get these documents, as they understand that it will greatly help their cases. *But some clients just can't be bothered. *Not only does this make it more difficult to win the case, it makes it more difficult to represent the client with any enthusiasm-if you don't care about your case, why should your attorney?

    4 - Bringing Documents Late:*I suppose this is a sub-category of "Failure to Cooperate," but it deserves its own mention. *Immigration Courts and the Asylum Offices have deadlines for submitting documents. *If you give a document to your lawyer at the last minute, he may not have time to properly review that document-to ensure that it is consistent with the rest of your case, for example-before submitting it. *Submitting an inconsistent document could jeopardize your case. *Also, for a lawyer to organize and submit documents in a professional manner takes time. *If we receive documents late, it is more difficult for us to do our jobs. *Ultimately, of course, this is bad for the client.

    3 - "No Shows" and "Dropping By:"*You should be able to contact your lawyer when you need him. *But you do not have a right to stop by any time you want without an appointment. *Lawyers have busy schedules and multiple deadlines. *The more we can organize our days, the better. *When a client shows up without an appointment, it interrupts our schedules and potentially disrupts our day. *If you want to see your lawyer, please call in advance and make an appointment. *The flip side of this is when clients make an appointment and then don't show up without calling. *It's common courtesy to call if you can't attend an appointment, and it makes sense to treat your attorney-the person who is working on a case that might profoundly affect your life-with respect.

    2 - Late to Court or Late to an Interview:*Even worse than missing appointments with your lawyer is missing your appointment with the Immigration Judge or the Asylum Officer. *This will potentially cause you to lose your case and be deported. *It is also a problem for the lawyer, who often has to cover for you or appear at a second hearing (if you are lucky enough to be rescheduled and not simply denied).

    1 - Don't Keep Asking, "Is My Case Done Yet:"*Once an asylum case is filed, lawyers can only do so much to make it go faster - and by "so much," I mean*basically*nothing. *Bugging your lawyer about whether there is a decision yet in your case is like asking him whether the Messiah is coming soon: We can pray for it, but that's about all. *So please be patient. *If lawyers could issue green cards, we would work a lot less and make a lot more.

    And there you have it. *If you are a person seeking asylum and you have a lawyer, try to avoid these bad habits. *Remember - a happy lawyer will do better work, and you will have a better chance to win your case. *And, to all those clients who don't have any bad habits, from all us lawyers - Thank you!

    Originally posted on the Asylumist:

    Updated 07-16-2013 at 01:56 PM by JDzubow

  3. Afghan Woman Who Feared Deportation Found Dead

    An Afghan woman who was under investigation for filing a false asylum claim was found dead last month in an apparent suicide.* Gulalay Bahawdory, 60, grew up in Afghanistan and lived in Europe before coming to the United States and applying for asylum in 2000.

    In her asylum application, Ms. Bahawdory apparently used a fake
    name.* Her husband, Bashir Bahawdory, also a former refugee from
    Afghanistan, states
    that she left the United States before receiving a decision in her
    case. *But*ICE says that her case was denied and she was ordered removed
    from the U.S. in April 2001. *Both the husband and ICE could be
    correct: Perhaps she left before a decision was reached, and then an IJ
    ordered her removed in absentia.

    In 2004, Ms. Bahawdory returned to the United States based on a
    marriage petition filed by her husband. *She became a U.S. citizen in

    According to the Taliban, these girls are committing a serious crime.

    Ms. Bahawdory lived in Raleigh, North Carolina.* It sounds like she
    had a good life there with her husband and her adult step children, who
    thought of her as a best friend.

    For some reason, ICE began investigating her case earlier this year.
    *After the investigation began, Ms. Bahawdory thought of little else,
    her husband said.* She feared that if she were deported to Afghanistan,
    she would be harmed or killed by the Taliban or other extremists.

    According to an ICE spokesperson, "Mrs. Bahawdory's prior removal
    from the United States was discovered when ICE ran the fingerprints she
    provided for the spousal petition." *ICE did not say when or why they
    checked the fingerprints or why it only began investigating her
    citizenship this year. *Also, no word on why this*discrepancy*was not
    discovered earlier.* (After all, what's the point of taking fingerprints
    if they don't reveal issues like this at the time of the application?)

    Last month, Ms. Bahawdory's body was found in a lake in north
    Raleigh.* Police found her car nearby.* In the car, there were three
    notes. *One was to her husband, stating that she loved him and knew what
    she had done was wrong. *She wrote a second note to her attorney,
    thanking her for doing what she could to help. *The third letter was
    left for the Raleigh police. *"I love the United States," Ms. Bahawdory
    wrote. *"God bless the United States."

    Whatever the cause of death, this is clearly a tragic case.* If, as
    it appears, Ms. Bahawdory committed suicide for fear of deportation to
    Afghanistan, her death is doubly tragic.* For one thing, having already
    attained U.S. citizenship, it is not easy for the U.S. government to
    revoke that citizenship.* Remember John Demjanjuk?*
    He was a naturalized U.S. citizen who was convicted of accessory to
    murder of 27,900 Jews during World War II.* Despite his horrific crimes,
    it took over 30 years to finally de-naturalize and deport him.* If it
    took 30 years for a criminal like Mr. Demjanjuk, how long would it have
    taken for Ms. Bahawdory?

    Also, even if her citizenship were revoked, Ms. Bahawdory had several
    defenses to removal: She could have sought asylum (or lesser forms of
    humanitarian relief like Withholding of Removal or Torture Convention
    relief); She might have been eligible for a waiver for the immigration
    fraud; She might have been eligible for Cancellation of Removal.* In
    addition, even if she were denied all relief, she could have asked for
    deferral of removal based on humanitarian grounds.* She certainly would
    have presented a sympathetic case given her age, her home country, her
    family ties to the U.S., and (as far as I know) her otherwise clean

    I can certainly understand why someone-especially a woman from a
    country like Afghanistan-would feel tremendous stress if she felt she
    would be deported to her homeland.* But Ms. Bahawdory was a long way
    from being deported.* If she really did commit suicide because she
    feared deportation, this is a tragedy that should never have happened.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist:

    Updated 07-16-2013 at 01:57 PM by JDzubow

  4. Thanksgiving: The Anti-Immigration Holiday

    Last week, I posted about how Thanksgiving is the quintessential refugee holiday.* I didn't want to say anything negative about Thanksgiving before the holiday, as that would be a bit of a humbug.* But now, enough time has passed that most of the leftover Turkey is gone, and now I want to write about the more challenging side of the holiday for immigration advocates.* Of course, I speak about the fact that the immigrants in the Thanksgiving scenario (the Europeans) essentially eradicated the original inhabitants of their new country (the Native Americans).


    Europeans were generally not known for being cordial to the Native Americans.

    It has always surprised me that more anti-immigration folks don't use Thanksgiving as an example of what happens when immigration runs amok.* Fifty years after the first Thanksgiving, most of the Wampanoag tribe (the Native Americans who dined with the Pilgrims in 1621) were either dead or sold into slavery.* From an estimated population of 6,600 in 1610, the Wampanoag were reduced to only about 400 individuals by 1677 (they have since recovered somewhat - in 2000, the estimated population was 2,336).* In short, while the first Thanksgiving was lovey-dovey, things didn't end too well for the native peoples who received the new immigrants.* But this is something we rarely hear about from immigration restrictionists.

    I suppose one reason that Thanksgiving is not used by immigration opponents is that it's not easy to be anti-Thanksgiving.* Thanksgiving is probably the most popular non-religious holiday in the U.S., and to oppose Thanksgiving might seem un-American (in fact, to oppose Thanksgiving is un-American).* Since immigration opponents always seem to be uber patriots, I guess they do not want to be seen opposing the holiday.

    Another reason that the holiday is not used against immigrants is that the analogy between European settlers/colonialists and modern-day immigrants really does not stand up.* The settlers of old were not trying to integrate into the indigenous culture; they were trying to conquer it.* Even if-as some restrictionists might argue-modern day immigrants do not integrate into mainstream society, they are clearly not in the same position to conquer our country as the settlers who conquered the New World.* We are much larger and more unified than the pre-Colombian indigenous peoples.* The number of immigrants coming to the U.S. these days is much smaller proportionately than the number of Europeans coming here in the colonial period.* Finally, most Native Americans died from diseases, and-Lou Dobbs notwithstanding-that is not a real threat to us today (at least not because of immigration).* So even if restrictionists wanted to use Thanksgiving as a cautionary tale about too much immigration, the analogy is weak.

    Thanksgiving is frequently cited by pro-immigration types (and pro-asylum types like me).* I do think the holiday could be used to raise questions about immigration: How much immigration is good for our country, whether immigrants appropriately integrate into our society, how best to handle people who are here illegally.* But for restrictionists, maybe it is safer and more effective to raise those issues separately from the Thanksgiving holiday.* That's fine with me, as I am a fan of Thanksgiving.* Now if you'll excuse me, I know we have some leftover cranberry sauce around here somewhere...

    Originally posted on the Asylumist:

    Updated 07-16-2013 at 01:57 PM by JDzubow

  5. Thanksgiving: The Refugee Holiday

    They say that if you have a hammer, every problem is a nail.* In the
    same way, if you have an asylum blog, every holiday involves asylum.*
    I wrote about how Jesus, Mary and Joseph were asylum seekers.* Today, I
    thought I'd discuss Thanksgiving and refugees.* Maybe next time, I will
    explain why Arbor Day is an asylum holiday.*

    The connection between refugees and Thanksgiving is probably pretty obvious.*

    in the late 16th century, a group of Separatists who objected to
    certain practices of the Church of England faced persecution from
    ecclesiastic and state authorities.* These people were later called Pilgrims.* As a result of their tenuous situation in England, they migrated to the Netherlands in the first decade of the 17th century.

    The Pilgrims were not thrilled with the libertine atmosphere on the
    Continent, and so they returned to England and then sailed to North
    America in 1620.* If they were seeking refuge today, the Pilgrim's
    return to England (re-availing themselves of the protection of the
    English government) might very well disqualify them for asylum.* Also,
    the fact that they were firmly resettled in the Netherlands, and then
    chose to up and move to America might also disqualify them for asylum.

    In any case, after a difficult 65-day journey on the Mayflower, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in November 1620.* That winter was particularly hard, and about 50% of the new settlers died.

    Things improved the following year with a good harvest (and with the
    help of local Indians), and the Pilgrims decided to celebrate-this would
    be the first Thanksgiving dinner.* Attending the dinner were 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribe.* The celebration lasted for three days.

    After the first Thanksgiving, various public leaders and church
    officials would declare thanksgiving holidays, but there was no set date
    for the festival.* Finally in 1789, George Washington proclaimed the
    first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration, but the holiday was still
    not regularized.*

    In 1863, during the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln
    declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday in
    November (and here I must mention Sarah Joseph Hale, a tireless crusader who helped make Thanksgiving a national holiday (and who wrote the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb)).

    In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill making Thanksgiving the
    fourth Thursday in November.* Thus, the holiday achieved its present

    I've noticed that many new immigrants to the U.S. celebrate
    Thanksgiving.* Because it is a holiday for giving thanks and for success
    in the New World, it is perhaps the quintessential immigrant holiday.*
    And while some have criticized the holiday as glossing over the effect
    of colonialism on native peoples (including the Wampanoag), the first
    Thanksgiving was a moment when two very different cultures encountered
    each other and dined together in peace.* This, to me, is the true spirit
    of the holiday.* Happy Thanksgiving.*

    Originally posted on the Asylumist:

    Updated 07-16-2013 at 01:57 PM by JDzubow

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