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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

The Asylum Affidavit, Part 3: TMI

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This is the final (and much delayed)* installment in a series about
preparing a client's asylum affidavit.* I previously wrote about the
importance of including enough detail
to support a claim.* Today I want to discuss how to provide details
about sensitive topics, like rape or the murder of a loved one.

Immigration Judges love reading well crafted affidavits.

obvious reasons, most asylum applications involving discussing
unpleasant events.* However, some events are more unpleasant than
others.* For example, I worked on a case where my client witnessed the
murder of her mother and siblings during a genocide in her country.* At
the time of these murders, my client was just 11 years old.* In another
case, a client was arrested while returning from a political rally.*
While she was in custody, two policemen raped her.* In a third case, my
client quit his political party and, in a revenge attack, he was shot
six times and left for dead.

This is pretty horrific stuff, so how
do you present these event in a credible manner without forcing the
clients to re-live their trauma?

First, I think it is helpful if the client understands why
he needs to explain the painful aspects of his case.* I am no expert,
but I believe that when a client is educated about the requirements for
asylum, he feels more in control of his case and this might make it
easier for him to talk about past trauma.*

Second, it is important
to establish a rapport with the client so she feels comfortable and
safe discussing difficult issues.* While this may seem like a
no-brainer, it is often difficult for busy attorneys to spend the extra
time our clients need to make sure they are comfortable.

Third, it
is often not necessary to provide a lot of detail about a traumatic
event in order to establish past persecution.* For example, in my
case--where the political activist was raped by the police while
returning from a demonstration--we provided details about her political
involvement, the demonstration, and her detention.* When it came to the
actual rape, we stated that the police raped her, but we provided no
further details about the incident.* If she has established her
credibility and the fact finder believes that she has been raped, that
is enough to prove past persecution.* USCIS has some good training materials for Asylum Officers, which discuss this point:

asylum officer can elicit sufficient detail to establish credibility
and gain an understanding of the basis of the claim without probing too
deeply into all the details of a painful experience.

This is a key
point--it is not necessary to provide all the details about an event
like a rape.* The fact that the person was raped is, in-and-of-itself,
sufficient to show past persecution.

Finally, and to their credit,
Asylum Officers, DHS Trial Attorneys, and Immigration Judges tend to be
very sensitive to an alien's trauma.* I tell my clients about this, as I
believe it helps reduce the level of intimidation and makes it easier
for them to discuss their history.

While it is probably not
possible to prepare a case without discussing traumatic events to some
extent, it is possible--and important--to minimize the secondary trauma
our clients suffer while preparing their asylum applications.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

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Updated 07-16-2013 at 02:03 PM by JDzubow

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