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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

FAIR Asks EOIR to Violate the Law in Aunt Onyango's Case

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The Federation for American Immigration Reform is calling upon the Justice Department and the Executive Office for Immigration Review ("EOIR") to violate the law and make public the record in the recently-decided asylum case of President Obama's aunt.  PR Newswire reports:


Today's decision granting President Obama's aunt, Zeituni Onyango, political asylum provides a case study in how those seeking to evade U.S. immigration laws can manipulate the system, charged the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).  FAIR also demanded that the entire record of her case, which was rendered after years of delay and after Ms. Onyango refused to comply with a deportation order, be made public.


Judge Leonard Shapiro did not reveal the basis for his decision to grant asylum to Ms. Onyango and Ms. Onyango's attorney has declared that his client wants to keep the decision confidential.  "Given Onyango's relationship to the president, the American people have a right to know on what grounds Ms. Onyango's asylum was granted," [FAIR President Dan] Stein said.  "Illness and political turmoil in one's homeland are not recognized as grounds for being granted asylum.  Defining asylum so broadly not only exceeds any reasonable interpretation of the law, but would make countless millions of people around the world eligible for asylum in the U.S.   Americans deserve to know whether the system worked."


Of course Mr. Stein has no idea why Ms. Onyango was granted asylum, but that clearly did not stop him from forming an opinion.  Worse, his "demand" that the decision be made public directly contradicts the law.  From the EOIR Practice Manual:


Evidentiary hearings involving an application for asylum or withholding of removal ("restriction on removal"), or a claim brought under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, are open to the public unless the respondent expressly requests that the hearing be closed.  In cases involving these applications or claims, the Immigration Judge inquires whether the respondent requests such closure. 


Ms. Onyango has requested that the hearing be closed and that should be the end of the matter.  Confidentiality in asylum cases is important to protect asylum seekers and their families.  While there are legitimate issues to be raised concerning the asylum process, Mr. Stein's "demand" demonstrates his callous disregard for the rights and safety of asylum seekers.

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