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  1. Tips from a Former Asylum Officer

    Heidi Boas has dedicated her legal career to assisting asylum-seekers, refugees, and other immigrants through her work with the U.S. Government, United Nations, and non-profit organizations. Heidi served as a Senior Asylum Officer at the Arlington Asylum Office (2014-2017) and currently practices immigration law at Wilkes Legal, LLC in Takoma Park, MD. Heidi’s full biography can be found here.

    Heidi Boas

    Contact Heidi Boas at To schedule a consultation with an immigration attorney at Wilkes Legal, LLC, visit our website or call (301) 576-0491.

    Given the large backlog and heavy caseload at the asylum office, asylum officers are under significant pressure to complete cases as efficiently as possible. An asylum officer is allocated an average of four hours to complete each asylum case, which involves some steps that you and your attorney don’t see—including about an hour spent drafting the written decision, and about forty minutes working on security checks and other administrative tasks. When you add those steps to the two hours that an asylum officer spends conducting the average asylum interview, the officer may have only about twenty minutes to review your file before calling you in for the interview. When preparing your asylum case, therefore, it is helpful to keep the asylum officer’s time constraints in mind and avoid submitting extraneous information.

    Below are some tips from my perspective as a former asylum officer on how to prepare an effective and efficient asylum claim:

    The Personal Statement

    The personal statement is arguably the most important document in your asylum application, but it does not need to be very long. If the asylum officer only has twenty minutes to review your file, she probably will not have time to read your attorney’s lengthy legal brief, but she should always take time to read your personal statement. Given the time pressure that the officer is under, it is best to keep your personal statement concise and to the point. I recommend limiting it to a length of five pages or less. State up front why you are applying for asylum—What harm did you suffer in the past or do you fear in the future? Why were you harmed in the past, and/or why do you fear harm in the future? Avoid including extraneous information such as details about your family background, education, and employment history. Basic information about your background is included in the Form I-589 Application for Asylum, and additional detail is often irrelevant to your asylum claim. The main purpose of the personal statement is to focus on any harm that you suffered in the past and any harm you fear in the future. Leave general references to country conditions out of the personal statement and focus on telling your story. Finally, make sure that you fully understand the contents of your personal statement before signing it, and that the statement has been translated back to you word-for-word in your language.

    Supporting Documents

    Keeping in mind the asylum officer’s time constraints, you should avoid submitting extraneous or duplicative documents in support of your asylum claim. For example, it is usually not helpful to submit copies of your diplomas or school records, as these documents are usually irrelevant to your asylum claim. It is also unnecessary to submit hundreds of pages of country conditions documents. Asylum officers are already familiar with human rights conditions in many countries and keep their own country conditions excerpts on hand to use when writing decisions. If an asylum officer is not already familiar with the situation in your country, the officer will conduct research and find relevant information to include in his or her written decision. Asylum officers generally consult the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, as these reports are considered an objective and reliable source of information. Since asylum officers have their own resources for finding country conditions information, you should be mindful of the number of pages you submit and highlight any excerpts of a report that you want the officer to focus on.

    Form I-589

    Take the time to carefully prepare the Form I-589 Application for Asylum, including details about where you have lived, your education, and your employment history. This can help save time when the asylum officer reviews the form with you during your interview. If you have several changes or corrections to make to Form I-589 at the interview, it is helpful to provide the officer with a list of your changes. The asylum officer is still required to note any corrections or changes by hand on the original Form I-589, but your list can help save the officer some time.

    Under “other names used,” list as aliases any alternate spellings (including misspellings) or alternate versions of your name that you have used. By listing these other names on Form I-589, you can help avoid delays during the security check process. After receiving the asylum application, the asylum office will automatically run security checks on any names listed on Form I-589. If the asylum officer learns during or after the interview that you have used another version or spelling of your name that was not initially listed on Form I-589, the officer must then initiate the security check process for that name, which could cause a delay in receiving your decision.

    The Legal Argument

    Asylum officers are required to undergo an extensive six-week training program in asylum law, and pass exams before adjudicating asylum cases. In addition, they continue receiving weekly training throughout their tenure at the asylum office. If confronted with a challenging or unfamiliar legal issue, asylum officers are encouraged to refer to the Asylum Officer Training Manual or consult a supervisor.

    In light of the training that asylum officers receive and the significant time constraints they face, it is not necessary to submit a lengthy legal brief in support of your asylum case. The asylum officer probably won’t have time to read the brief word-for-word and may not have time to read it at all. If you or your attorney are making a novel legal argument or referencing new case law and want to submit your argument in writing, try to keep your analysis as concise as possible. A succinct cover letter can suffice, for example, instead of a lengthy brief.

    Preparing for the Interview

    When preparing for the asylum interview, don’t avoid addressing the tough issues. A critical part of an asylum officer’s job is to assess your credibility, so you should discuss with your attorney any potential credibility issues that could arise and be prepared for questions about those issues at your interview. An asylum officer is required to confront you about any inconsistencies in your testimony or application, give you an opportunity to explain the inconsistency, and then assess the reasonableness of your response. Be prepared to respond calmly and provide an explanation for any inconsistencies, rather than reacting defensively to the officer’s question.

    After the Interview

    After the interview, if you strongly disagree with the asylum officer’s decision, consider filing a Motion to Reopen or Reconsider. No form or filing fee is required. The motion should be filed within 30 days, or later if you can show the delay was reasonable and beyond your control. It is best to submit the motion by letter to the asylum office as soon as possible after receiving your decision. If the asylum office receives your motion soon enough, it can decide to call you back in for a re-interview before serving a Notice to Appear ("NTA") on the court. Alternatively, if the NTA has already been served on the court, the asylum office can ask Immigration and Customers Enforcement to terminate the NTA and recall the case to the asylum office for another interview.

    If you have been waiting months or years since your interview to receive a decision from the asylum office, you might consider filing a writ of mandamus. A mandamus can help incentivize the asylum office to call you in for another interview and finally issue a decision. Even if the asylum office’s decision is not a positive one, you can move forward with presenting your case before the immigration judge and then pursuing any necessary appeals.

    Originally posted at

    Updated 03-21-2018 at 08:59 AM by JDzubow

    Tags: asylum Add / Edit Tags
  2. Democrats Won't Stand up for Dreamers in Spending Bill, But They Seem OK With Torture. Will Enabling Trump's Agenda Help Immigrants? Roger Algase

    The latest news reports indicate that, once again, the Democratic leaders in Congress are apparently willing to give up the only leverage they will ever have in a Republican-controlled Congress to enact relief for the Dreamers, namely insisting that a DACA solution be included in an omnibus spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of this week.

    The Hill reports that Democratic leaders in both Houses are apparently pulling back from insisting on a DACA solution in the spending bill.

    This would leave Dreamers' protection from eventual deportation in the hands of the right wing majority Supreme Court, or up to the tender mercy of Donald Trump himself. LOL with that on both counts, Dreamers.

    However, while the Democrats may have a problem standing up for the Dreamers in Congress, they seem to have less difficulty in accommodating torture, as shown by POLITICO's report on their evident reluctance to block confirmation of an alleged CIA "black site" torture chief, Gina Haskel, as head of the CIA.

    Whether the notorious division between Democrats who are willing to stand up for principle and those who appear to be more attracted to the siren song of presumed political expediency was responsible for putting Donald Trump, along with his anti-immigrant agenda, in the White House in the first place is beyond the scope of this comment and not a subject for discussion here.

    But now we know many more details than we did in 2016 showing how serious Trump is in pursuing that agenda, which not only involves mass arrest and incarceration, if not yet an increase in deportation, of non-criminal immigrants (or those charged with minor crimes), but drastic cuts in legal immigration affecting mainly non-white parts of the world.

    Therefore, is it not time to ask whether Democrats' playing nice to Trump's agenda is really the best way to protect immigrants from having the race and religion neutral, non-discriminatory immigration system which America has had for the past 50 years dismantled bit by bit, and replaced by a 1924-style system in which only immigrants from "Countries like Norway" to use Trump's January 11 expression, are welcome?

    The argument that caving in to and playing along with Trump's agenda will help immigrants in the current environment is based on tortured reasoning, to say the least.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law

    Updated 03-20-2018 at 08:58 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  3. Trump Finds New Reason to Demonize, Scapegoat and Promote Animosity Against Latin American and Other Minority Immigrants - Opioid Crisis. Roger Algase

    Donald Trump has now found another excuse for promoting his agenda of building a wall against Mexico and attempting to persuade Congress to enact draconian restrictions against legal immigration - which would overwhelmingly impact Latin American and other non-European immigrants most of all - the opioid crisis.

    Against clear evidence from the National Institutes of Health, among other independent sources, that the opioid crisis is caused mainly by over-prescription on the part of large US pharmaceutical companies and not by immigrants, Trump gave a venomous, demagogic March 19 speech blaming the crisis on, among other things "releasing illegal immigrants...back into our communities."

    In contrast, the latest expert US government agency analysis by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) dated March, 2018, gives the following reason for what it calls the "Opioid Overdose Crisis":

    "In the late 1990's, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive."

    Even Trump's White House recognizes the need to reduce opioid prescriptions. The above report in The Hill states that White House aims to reduce these prescriptions by one third over the next three years.

    What does apparent drug company profiteering from pain-killer abuse by Americans have to do with immigration?

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law

    Updated 03-20-2018 at 07:14 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  4. ICE v. California – The Battle Continues

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

    As any reader of this blog (or casual reader of immigration news) knows, the Trump administration has declared war against the State of California due to the State’s passage of various laws designed to protect undocumented immigrants as well as employers from unwanted federal intrusion into workplaces. Earlier this year, Thomas D. Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has criticized California for their efforts to protect undocumented immigrants and limit law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with immigration officials. Homan recently added “We’ve got to take these sanctuary cities on. We’ve got to take them to court, and we’ve got to start charging some of these politicians with crimes.”

    Upon this backdrop, in early March 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued California alleging three new state laws designed to protect certain undocumented immigrants from deportation by the federal government are unconstitutional. This article will focus on the employment-related statute - Immigrant Worker Protection Act. The DOJ is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions that prohibit California from enforcing Immigrant Worker Protection Act against private employers.

    Under the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450), which became effective January 1, 2018, California has placed restrictions on how private employers in California must respond to ICE efforts to ensure immigration compliance, by requiring ICE agents to provide a judicial warrant to employers to access non-public portions of worksites. Thus, employers may not simply consent for ICE to have access to non-public portions of the worksite. Additionally, employers are prohibited from sharing confidential employee information, such as Social Security numbers, unless required to do so in a Notice of Inspection or provided a judicial warrant. The law also requires employers to provide employees and their authorized representatives, within 72 hours, with copies of written ICE notices providing results of inspections.

    According to the DOJ lawsuit, “These provisions, individually and collectively, have the purpose and effect of interfering with the enforcement of the INA and IRCA’s prohibition on working without authorization. California has no lawful interest in protecting unauthorized workers from detection or in shielding employers who have violated federal immigration law from penalty. These provisions, as applied to private employers, violate the Supremacy Clause by, among other things, constituting an obstacle to the United States’ enforcement of the immigration laws and discriminating against federal immigration enforcement.”

    California officials, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, assert they have the constitutional right to govern their state as they see fit because “States and local jurisdictions have the right to determine which policies are best for their communities.”

    “There is real uncertainty about who will win it,” said Ilya Somin, law professor at George Mason University. That's in part because the legal landscape on federal vs. state rights related to immigration is not clear. Lower courts have split on whether it is legal for the federal government to require local law enforcement to hand over immigrants. The lawsuit is a risky endeavor for the Trump administration because if it loses, it will potentially empower other states that want to defy the president to pass similar laws.
    I will keep you updated on this litigation. For a review of all employment and immigration-related state laws and other issues related to employer immigration compliance, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, available at
  5. Letters of the Week: March 19 - March 23

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