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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum


  1. UNHCR: Number of Asylum Applications Up Sharply in 2011

    A new report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ("UNHCR") shows that asylum claims in industrialized countries have increased 20% from 2010 to 2011. The United States continued to receive the most asylum seekers among the countries surveyed: approximately 74,000 asylum seekers in 2011. This compares to approximately 55,500 asylum seekers for 2010, a 33% increase (among all countries, South Africa received the most asylum seekers).
    The increase in asylum seekers to the U.S. is due largely to higher numbers from three countries: China (+20%), Mexico (+94%), and India (+241%).

    With all the new refugees, we should at least get some interesting food joints.

    The U.S. receives more asylum seekers from China than from any other country. In 2010, we received 12,850 asylum seekers from China. In 2011, we received 15,450 asylum seekers from China, an increase of 2,600 people or about 20%. The large numbers are probably due to special provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act that provide for asylum for victims of forced family planning-these provisions were created specifically to assist people from China, and they certainly seem to have encouraged Chinese nationals to seek asylum here. Indeed, of the 24,400 Chinese asylum seekers worldwide, the U.S. received about 63% of all cases. This is a very high number, given our physical distance from China. If these numbers continue to rise, I wonder whether it will cause us to re-think our decision to grant asylum to victims of forced family planning.
    The biggest numerical increase was among Mexicans seeking asylum in the U.S. In 2010, there were 4,225 asylum seekers from Mexico. In 2011, we received 8,186 asylum seekers from Mexico. I recently wrote a post where I expressed doubt about the reported increase in Mexican asylum claims. If the UNHCR report is correct, I was wrong and the number of asylum seekers has increased dramatically in the last year. We will see whether the grant rate for Mexicans-which has been about 2%-will increase with the new crop of asylum seekers. If this trend continues, it will certainly place a burden on our asylum system, and we might need to re-evaluate how we deal with the new influx.
    In terms of relative increases, India had the largest increase: Up 241% from last year (the U.S. received 720 Indian asylum seekers in 2010 and 2,457 in 2011). As far as I can tell, Indian cases are very diverse: political persecution, religious persecution, and sexual orientation, among other basis. Why the dramatic increase in India asylum seekers? I have no idea. One "push factor" that seems inapplicable to Indian cases is the economy-India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. One year does not make a trend, so we will have to wait and see how many Indian nationals seek asylum in the U.S. in 2012.
    Aside from the "big three," there were major increases from El Salvador (2010-2,703; 2011-4,011) and Guatemala (2010-2,235; 2011-3,363), and smaller increases from Honduras, Haiti, and Nepal. Rounding out the top 10 source countries for asylum seekers in the U.S. were Ethiopia (which saw a small drop in numbers) and Egypt, which appeared on the U.S. top ten list for the first time, perhaps as a result of difficulties related to the Arab Spring.
    Worldwide, the top source countries for asylum seekers were Afghanistan (approximately 35,700 asylum seekers, up 34% from 2010), China (24,400; up 13% from 2010), Iraq (23,500; up 14% from 2010, but significantly down from 2008 when there were 40,400 claims), Serbia (21,200; down 28% from 2010), and Pakistan (18,100; up 66% from last year).
    Given world population growth (there are a lot more people than there used to be), general economic malaise, and the dismal state of human rights in many countries, it is not surprising that the number of asylum seekers is increasing. How we address these problems and how we treat people who come to us for help are some of the defining issues of our time.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  2. Case Dismissed Against “Halva Terrorists”

    Last August, I wrote about three Eritrean refugees who were arrested at Phoenix airport and accused of plotting a terrorist attack.* The Eritreans were caught with a package of halva (a common Mideast dessert, which is delicious AND Kosher for Passover).* The package of halva was suspicious because it had a cell phone taped to it.* TSA suspected this was a mock up of a bomb, and that the Eritreans were on a "dry run" for a terrorist attack.* Unfortunately, in this day and age, it is hard to blame TSA for being overly cautious.* Nevertheless, the charges seemed like a bit of a stretch.*

    Jello shaped likes a grenade is also a bad idea for airplane travel.

    Now, the government has dismissed the case against the three refugees:
    "Based on the new information, further prosecution is not in the interest of justice," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Koehler in his motion to dismiss the charges.
    Philip Seplow, an attorney for one of the three, said he thinks the government simply realized the refugees were not guilty and the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, partially because of a significant language barrier.* Mr. Seplow reports that when he informed his client that she had been cleared of the charges, she wept with relief.
    Of course it is better to be safe than sorry, and it is difficult to imagine how the government could have handled this case any better.* As for me, next time I travel, I will not be carrying any halva.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  3. Jewish Hatemonger and Her Lies About Syrian TPS

    Conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel has made a name for herself fighting "radical Islam," which to her is synonymous with any form of Islam.* For instance, in response to Osama bin Laden's death, she wrote "One down, 1.8 billion to go... many of 'em inside U.S. borders."* Regarding the teenagers murdered in last year's massacre in Norway, she writes:
    Now these kids' families know what it feels like to be victims of the Islamic terrorists whose Judenrein boycotts and terrorist flotillas against Israel they support.

    Passover reminds us not to rejoice in the downfall of our enemies, even the really annoying ones.

    She refers to the victims, who were as young as 14 years old, as "hateful, privileged brats."* Their crime according to Ms. Schlussel-some of them expressed support for Palestinian rights and boycotting Israel.
    You would think that mocking murder victims and calling for genocide against Muslim men, women, and children would put Ms. Schlussel outside the boundaries of civilized conversation.* Her work might be appropriate for a neo-Nazi website like Stormfront (though I imagine they won't have her since she purports to be Jewish), but not for the main stream media.* Unfortunately, Ms. Schlussel appears regularly in the New York Post and the Jerusalem Post, as well as other media outlets.
    The thing about her is that not only is she hateful, but she is a liar.* When the facts don't support her miserable view of the world, she makes up facts to help fuel her hate (and her readers' hate).* This is certainly the case with TPS for Syrians.* She writes:
    Barack Obama and Janet Napolitano just gave thousands of Syrian Muslims-all of them either sympathizers with Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood-permission to stay in the United States forever.
    The Syrians in our midst-many of them here illegally-will now be untouchable by ICE (which isn't arresting illegal aliens, anyway) for at least 18 months on the books.* But, as we know, in each case in which the U.S. has granted TPS for 18 months, the aliens got to stay forever.
    And to add insult to injury:* these people, as with the Libyans and others who were granted TPS by Obama, will be able to work without restrictions in the U.S.-taking jobs from U.S. citizens.
    Of course the first lie is that Syrians in America sympathize with Islamic terrorist groups.* There is no evidence what-so-ever to support this claim.* Indeed, the Syrians I have met in the U.S. oppose Islamic extremism and oppose the Assad regime (one of my clients-a medical doctor-was arrested and held in a torture prison on account of his opposition to the regime).
    A second lie is that the Syrians, "as with the Libyans and others who were granted TPS," will stay in the U.S. forever.* First of all, Ms. Schlussel is wrong (or more likely just made up a "fact" to suit her argument)-Libyans were never granted TPS in the United States.* Second, there is no reason to believe Syrians will stay here "forever."* While TPS has been extended repeatedly for certain countries (mostly in Central America), that has not been the case for other countries, like Liberia, and-according to the Center for Immigration Studies (a restrictionist organization)-TPS for Sudan is winding down.
    A third lie (and I simply don't have time to address them all) is that Syrians in the U.S. are "untouchable by ICE (which isn't arresting illegal aliens, anyway)."* In general, people with criminal convictions are not eligible for TPS.* Further, if a person with TPS commits a crime or if there is reason to believe that he is a security threat, he can-and probably will-be arrested.* Finally, contrary to Ms. Schlusser's claim that we are not arresting illegal aliens, DHS has deported record numbers of aliens during each year of the Obama administration.
    It's too bad that Ms. Schlussel's lies are able to distort the public dialogue on this important issue.* It's also too bad that a person who claims to be the "granddaughter of immigrant Holocaust survivors" would perpetrate the same type of hatred and lies that led to the Holocaust.* I expect better from my fellow Jews.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  4. Section 13: An Asylum Alternative for Diplomats

    Diplomats who cannot return to their countries can claim asylum, like anyone else.* But an alternative form of relief is available: Section 13 of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows individuals who entered the United States under diplomatic status to obtain a green card.* To be eligible for residency under Section 13, you must demonstrate that:

    You entered the United States as an A-1, A-2, G-1, or G-2 nonimmigrant
    You failed to maintain your A-1, A-2, G-1, or G-2 nonimmigrant status
    Your duties were diplomatic or semi-diplomatic
    There is a compelling reason why you or your immediate family cannot return to the country which accredited you as a diplomat
    You are a person of good moral character
    You are admissible to the United States for permanent residence
    Granting you a green card would be in the national interest of the United States

    Several of these requirements are a bit tricky.* First, you must show that your duties were diplomatic or semi-diplomatic.* "Aliens whose duties were of a custodial, clerical, or menial nature, and members of their immediate families, are not eligible for benefits under section 13." See Matter of --, Administrative Appeals Office, July 23, 2007.* Second, you must show a compelling reason why you cannot return to the country that accredited you.* Fear of persecution would qualify as a "compelling reason," but the law does not seem limited to such claims. Id. (however, the inability to support oneself in the home country is not a "compelling reason").* Finally, you would need to show that granting residency is in the "national interest" of the United States.* The only information I could find about this requirement is in the AAO decision, mentioned above, which notes that being a healthy, hard working man who can contribute to society is not the type of advantage to our national interest envisaged by the Act. Id.

    Diplomats get all the perks.

    To apply for section 13 relief, a diplomat must file an I-485 form with supporting documents.* More information about the requirements is available here.* The diplomat may also apply for a work permit (I-765) while the application for permanent residency is pending.
    So what is the advantage of section 13 adjustment over asylum?* For one thing, it appears that section 13 adjustment does not require any nexus between the feared harm and a protected ground (race, religion, nationality, particular social group or political opinion).* Another advantage is that the person immediately obtains a green card; an asylee must wait for one year before applying for residency.* One disadvantage to section 13 is that the diplomat would not be eligible for some of the special benefits available to asylees (like housing assistance and job placement).* Another disadvantage is that diplomats must show granting them residency is in the U.S. "national interest."
    I imagine section 13 would come in handy for diplomats from a country like Syria.* Although I have not heard about mass defections from that embassy, one can only hope that professional diplomats would have the courage to abandon a regime that is murdering thousands of people.* Section 13 allows such people to take a stand against their government and remain safely in the United States.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  5. New Handbook on Best Asylum Practices in the US and UK

    A new report from the Asylum-Network based on an 18-month study examines the challenges faced by asylum support groups in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the different ways the groups respond to those challenges.
    In preparing the report, the authors found that although there were many differences between asylum support groups in the two countries, a uniting theme emerged-an enduring sense of injustice at the treatment of asylum seekers and widespread recognition of the need to do more to change the social, legal, and political situations which lead to inequalities and discrimination.

    The U.S. and Britain agree: We don't like the asylum system or the French.

    The report found many similarities between the U.S. and Great Britain, which led to the conclusion that "there are merits to dialogue and exchange... across these distinct country contexts."* Some challenges faced by asylum support groups in both countries include shortages of funding, disconnection between organizations, emotional strain, and lack of legal consistency and accountability in the area of asylum law.
    The report makes a number of practical recommendations, including closer collaboration among asylum support organizations and pooling resources for fundraisers, media relations, and combating emotional strain.* The report also recommends sharing ideas and policy objectives between organizations in different countries.
    One statistic that I found interesting is that, on average, only 11% of an organizations connections were with groups in other countries.* Despite the relatively small amount of international cooperation between asylum support groups, survey respondents "felt that there was much potential for co-ordinated international approaches to the issues they face," particularly issues that could draw on international experience, like alternatives to detention.* While this is true in theory, I am not exactly sure how it would work in practice.
    For me-and I think for most immigration lawyers and advocates-the local connections are the most important.* I rely on a local network of attorneys and fellow travelers to answer my questions and keep me informed of new developments.* While I do sometimes rely on case law and reports from other countries (usually Canada, the UK, and Australia) to help support my clients' claims, I can find this information on the internet without much trouble.* I certainly like the idea of connecting with asylum advocates in other countries.* It's just that with limited time, it is difficult to establish and maintain such connections.*
    In the report, the authors indicate that they are attempting to start a conversation.* I hope that this proves to be true.* Perhaps a website, an on-line journal or periodic on-line conferences would be good ways to continue and expand the dialogue.* Whatever form it may take, to succeed, the continued conversation must provide busy asylum advocates with easily digestible information that helps with practical problems.
    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
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