2 Secret Tips on Credibility in Asylum
Credibility is important enough that it deserves its own guide. The same problems arise over and over again in asylum cases. Learn how to avoid these mistakes.
There Are No Small ContradictionsIn everyday life, humans make mistakes. Asylum applications, however, are expected to be error free. Applicants have multiple opportunities to correct the information: they lived the facts, related them to family members, described them to an attorney, and then reviewed the paperwork prior to signing. So, the Asylum Officers and Immigration Judges believe that there is no excuse for a mistake. Documents MUST match testimony.
Asylum is one of the most difficult immigration benefits to obtain because the applicant is desperately trying to forget past events, but she can't win her case unless she describes those past horrors, clearly and in great detail, to government officers. Being direct will literally save the applicant's life. The Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge must believe her. When an applicant exaggerates or forgets to mention even a seemingly insignificant detail, the Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge stops believing the rest of the statement.
A good example of how a case can be denied for a minor inconsistency is Zhi v. Holder. There, the applicant said events had happened on a specific date. The documents provided, however, had a different date. Based on this contradiction, the Immigration Judge denied asylum. Fortunately, on appeal, the federal court said that the applicant deserved an opportunity to submit corroborative evidence or to provide an explanation as to why a document with the correct date was not available. TIP: review all documents -- as well as the English translations -- to be sure the dates match your memory.
Likewise, an applicant should NEVER submit a false document. Period. If a document cannot be obtained, an applicant must demonstrate all the efforts that were made to acquire it. When clients let us know that prior representatives submitted false documents, we inform the Immigration Judge. Such a showing of integrity has won more than one case.
How Can an Attorney Help Me with Credibility Problems?As explained above, the applicant must know her information. Because memories fail, an experienced immigration attorney will review the important incidents with the applicant prior to the interview or hearing. Applicants must recollect the dates and details of each attack with the same precision that they state their name and date of birth.
An immigration attorney will also review the client's chronology of events carefully because an omission is just as much a mistake as erroneous information. Clients tell attorneys information they do not reveal to anyone else or information they would only reveal to someone of their own gender. Victims of repeated abuse are especially likely to forget important dates or details.
An applicant should be given an opportunity to explain an inconsistency. If an applicant states that he was attacked by three persons, but later remembers a fourth attacker, she should not panic. Officers and Judges know that nervousness often leads to an innocent mistake. Rather than leave the incorrect answer at three, an applicant should quickly explain and move forward.
During the interview or hearing, an experienced immigration attorney continues to assist an asylum applicant in two ways. First, the lawyer ensures that the asylum officer or trial attorney remains civil and asks relevant questions. Victims cannot endure undue pressure by U.S. government authorities. Second, the lawyer explains why the evidence produced is the most complete and reliable record available, given the conditions in the applicant's home country. A lack of appropriate documentary proof can result in a denial.
The following are things an asylum applicant should NEVER do at an Asylum Office or Immigration Court hearing:
-Embellish the story to make it seem worse than it actually is
-Try to provide information if the real answer is unknown
-Avoid looking directly at the person speaking