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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Fox News Goes After Syrian Asylee – By Any Means Necessary

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On Fox News, the ends always seem to justify the means. It's
acceptable to smear a perceived political opponent based on the most
tenuous of evidence. For this reason, even when Fox News raises a
legitimate concern, it's hard to separate truth from half-truth (which
reminds me of the old Yiddish proverb: "A halber emes iz a gantse lign"
or "A half-truth is a whole lie"). So I am not exactly sure what to make
of Fox's latest campaign to "expose" Syrian asylee Daoud Chehazeh.

According to Fox News:

Daoud Chehazeh is a known associate of
the*9/11 hijackers.**The government has spent more than half a million
dollars trying to deport him, but has*had no success.


Like a Swedish gymnast, Fox News is both fair and balanced.



Another (of many) reports by Fox News states:

With nearly 400,000 people waiting for
U.S. citizenship, Daoud Chehazeh last November received political asylum
for a third time after a series of bureaucratic screw ups at the
federal level....

It's a slap in the face to Americans,
especially the victims of 9/11 and the families," said Jim Bush, who as a
New Jersey state criminal investigator*was part of the 9/11
investigation code-named PENTTBOMB. His partner in the investigation was
Bob Bukowski, a now-retired FBI special agent.

"Three thousand people were murdered,"
Bukowski said. "(Chehazeh) was definitely part of that conspiracy.... He
facilitated the moves and protection up to the whole flight, basically,
of Flight 77. Could we prove that in a court of law? No. But there are
other remedies. Deport him. That's what should have been done in this
case."

Before I get to Mr. Chehazeh's case, I want to break down some of the
Fox commentary. First, it's true that "Daoud Chehazeh is a known
associate of the*9/11 hijackers." According to a published federal court decision,
he met two of the hijackers at a mosque in Northern Virginia. After the
September 11th attack, Mr. Chehazeh contacted the FBI and reported
whatever information he had on the two men. So to claim that he was a
known associate of the hijackers, without mentioning that he went to the
FBI to report what he knew about the men, is kind of like calling
Woodward and Bernstein "known associates" of Richard Nixon because they
reported the Watergate cover-up. At best, it's a half-truth.

Second, Fox News claims that the "government has spent more than half
a million dollars trying to deport" Mr. Chehazeh. How they could
possibly know the amount that the U.S. government spent on Mr.
Chehazeh's case is beyond me. Unless they actually know how many hours
each government employee worked on the case, it seems impossible that
they could know the amount. Here, I suspect that Fox News just
guesstimated (which is a polite way of saying that they made it up).

Next, Fox News says that "With nearly 400,000 people waiting for U.S.
citizenship, Daoud Chehazeh last November received political asylum for
a third time...." I am not sure who these 400,000 people are, or how Fox
arrived at this figure. I also am not sure what they have to do with
anyone's asylum case. I do know that Mr. Chehazeh did not receive asylum
"for a third time." He received asylum once (in 2002). The government
appealed and later filed a motion to reopen, but he was only ever
granted asylum one time.

Finally, the retired FBI agent Bob Bukowski says that Mr. Chehazeh
was "definitely part of [the 9/11] conspiracy.... Could we prove that in a
court of law? No." It seems to me, if Mr. Chehazeh was "definitely"
part of the conspiracy, Mr. Bukowski*could prove it in a court
of law. In fact, claiming that someone was "definitely" responsible for
murdering nearly 3,000 people when there is little or no evidence to
support such a claim, would likely form a strong basis for a libel
lawsuit.

Despite the problems in Fox's reporting, Mr. Chehazeh's case raises some serous issues.

For one thing, the IJ's behavior during the case was-to say the
least-unusual. According to the government's brief (as set forth in the
Third Circuit's decision):

[The IJ's] behavior in this matter...
included... ordering the Service... to personally travel to Respondent's
place of detention to assist him in preparing his I-589 [application for
asylum and withholding of removal]. When the Service declined, the
[I]mmigration Judge advised that she would assume Respondent had a
meritorious claim and grant him asylum. Ultimately, the Immigration
Judge personally reviewed and completed Respondent's I-589. At the time
of the individual hearing prior to obtaining any testimony from
Respondent, the Immigration Judge advised that she was ready to render a
decision

The IJ's actions are strange, and might very well have been reversed
on appeal, but the government attorney failed (forgot?) to file a brief,
and so the government's appeal was dismissed.

Another odd aspect of the IJ's decision is that she found an
exception to the one-year filing requirement based on changed
circumstances, to wit: the fact that Mr. Chehazeh had recently spoken to
the FBI. However, she granted asylum based on Mr. Chehazeh's particular
social group-"hopeless debtors." It's questionable whether this is a
cognizable social group. Also, if the IJ found an exception to the one
year-rule based on Mr. Chehazeh's cooperation with the FBI, she should
have granted asylum on a related ground (such as imputed political
opinion since anti-American extremists might view Mr. Chehazeh as
pro-American). Instead, the IJ granted asylum on a totally different
basis: The fact that Mr. Chehazeh owed a substantial debt to someone in
Syria. Since he owed this debt at the time he arrived in the U.S., more
than one year before filing for asylum, it is unclear why he would
qualify for an exception to the one-year rule.

Despite the difficulties with the case, it appears that the matter is now settled, and-unless new evidence is unearthed-Mr. Chehazeh will be able to remain in the United States as an asylee.

So in the end, Fox News has a point: There are real problems with Mr.
Chehazeh's case, both procedurally and substantively. However, since
Fox's coverage of the case is so distorted and inaccurate, it leaves
more questions than answers.

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

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Updated 07-16-2013 at 01:25 PM by JDzubow

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