4 Types of Documents Needed to Win an Asylum Case
In a world of my making, asylum applicants would be questioned wearing a lie detector. If they say they were harmed on account of a protected ground, and the lie detector says they are being truthful, they would be approved within a few hours. That will remain my wish.
Why Must I Present Documents?In reality, foreign nationals must PROVE their identity, the situation in their homeland, the harm suffered, and the motive of the persecutor. In other words, the law ridiculously requires that the applicant provide documents about much information that our country already has.
The Real ID Act - enacted on May 11, 2005 -- imposed strict standards on foreigners by allowing Immigration Judges to require applicants to produce documents in order to win asylum. Testimony is not enough. Fortunately, IF Immigration Judges deny asylum because they believe records are "reasonably available," the judges must explain why they believe the documents are on hand.
In other words, the government must demonstrate why the foreign national could have obtained the evidence. Despite this, foreigners must make every effort to obtain all evidence to prove their claim.
Your Involvement is Crucial to Preparing the CaseThe law firm organizes the evidence, conducts independent research, prepares you for the asylum interview or court hearing, and represents you at all times before the government agencies. One of our cases was won after the family was denied at an Asylum Office and then denied by an Immigration Judge. We won the appeal, represented the family before the SAME Immigration Judge, and won the asylum case. This was only possible because the applicant was very involved in gathering evidence that we requested - affidavits by expert witnesses, death certificates of family members, and the like.
If a client abandons her case by refusing to help gather evidence or provide information, we withdraw our representation. This is in contrast to what a notary might do for a client. A notary may prepare the application with minimal input from the client. Of course, notaries do not represent the client at the Asylum Office (other than acting as a translator) and are not allowed into the Immigration Court at all.
Documents to Identify Yourself - Dual Citizenship IssuesPersonal identification documents are a requirement, including a birth certificate, a passport, and an ID card if the government regularly issues one. Of course, some governments refuse to issue documents to those it oppresses. In those cases, foreign nationals must demonstrate they attempted to get the document, but were refused.
There is a problem with dual citizenship. If the applicant holds legal status or citizenship in a second country, asylum will not be granted without demonstrating fear of future harm there as well. This is difficult, but not impossible.
Importantly, however, applicants can argue that they have no allegiance to the second country. If the Immigration Court agrees, the applicants would only need to prove a fear of persecution in the remaining country of citizenship. The author won asylum for one Italian/Venezuelan because the consul of Italy signed a letter indicating that the client owed no allegiance to his country.
Applicants can prove they lack "permanent allegiance" to the second country of citizenship in other ways. The facts surrounding how they obtained citizenship, lack of knowledge of the country's foreign language, and failure to visit the second country all indicate there is no allegiance.
There is also a problem with derivative citizenship, which means a nationality that can be obtained from a spouse, parent, or grandparent. Immigration may deny asylum to applicants who can obtain citizenship from a second country even if they do not yet have that citizenship.
I believe that is an incorrect interpretation of the law and represent derivative clients successfully. Congress did not intend in the immigration laws to exclude foreigners as refugees because they might obtain citizenship from another country. Anyone can become a citizen of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) simply by paying the government $100,000. Logically, Immigration would want all asylums to be denied because an applicant can get citizenship there.
Documents Showing the Harm You SufferedPast persecution establishes a presumption of future persecution. An experienced attorney seeks documents demonstrating past harm because such proof establishes that it is more likely than not that harm will come to the foreigner in the future.
Asylees are defined by their well-founded fear to return to their homeland. That fear must be not only subjective, "I'm scared", but also objectively credible, "Anyone would be afraid". The simplest way to demonstrate a valid fear of future harm is by presenting records relating to past harm suffered. We ask that clients provide us with photographs, news articles of attacks, hospital and medical records. All foreign language documents need translation to the English language. In addition, our lawyers help clients explain to their physicians abroad the type of statement that would be useful. Generally, the more detailed the explanation, the better.
Police reports of attacks, of course, would be valuable to demonstrate that an applicant suffered harm. Where it is impossible to get such a report - perhaps because the authorities refuse to help the applicant - a police report is not needed.
Asylum applicants may also establish fear for future harm by demonstrating that citizens of their country, in a similar situation, would suffer persecution. In these cases, applicants must establish a pattern or practice of harming a particular group of persons and that they are members of such a group. Evidence for such a claim would generally be found in the Department of State's Country Report.
Another way to convince the Asylum Officer or the Immigration Judge that the applicant will be harmed is by "finding the twin." I request evidence of other victims who suffered the same fate. If the supervisor of a Colombian nurse left the country and obtained asylum in Canada, that's proof that the nurse's fear is reasonable. If the owner of a Venezuelan construction company had to flee to avoid arrest due to his political opinion, that is proof that the manager of the company may also be arrested.
Documents Showing Non-Physical HarmMost of our asylum clients, fortunately, have not been harmed physically. We still are able to win those cases by presenting many documents showing that it is more likely than not that they will be harmed if they return. Such documents include death certificates of others who were killed, medical records of others who were seriously harmed, therapist reports of serious psychological harm, proof of constant moving to avoid harm, and proof of serious property damage. In some cases, we have provided photographs of bombed buildings and burned homes. We also provide documents to show the burned dwellings belong to our clients.
Thankfully, it is not always necessary to suffer physical harm or to fear suffering physical harm to win asylum. Religious minorities can receive asylum if they can demonstrate that their materials - such as Bibles - were taken from them or that it is common practice to arrest worshippers of their faith.
Documents Showing the Persecutor's MotiveThe more difficult part of winning asylum cases is proving that the harm will occur or has occurred on account of a protected ground. The Asylum Officer or the Immigration Judge needs applicants to demonstrate what was in the mind of the shooter, the abuser, the gang member, or - worst yet - the police officer. Often, the only evidence is the testimony of the applicant. What words did the persecutor say just before he hit you?
It is VITAL in asylum cases that the applicant is believable precisely for this reason: the case depends on what the applicant says about the persecutor's motive.
The best evidence would be reports of human rights organizations. Asylum officers are trained to research information on foreign countries. In addition, they - like Immigration Judges - have vast information at their disposal provided from other applicants including country reports from the Department of State. Each and every applicant, nevertheless, has the burden to provide evidence showing why s/he was harmed. Although the United Nations may be holding hearings about the slaughter of civilians by President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian asylum applicants must present evidence of a pattern of harming anti-government protesters. See the legal guide entitled "Which Documents Prove the Persecutor's Motive?"
What if I Can't Get Documents?Getting these documents requires a great deal of effort. Applicants who are outside their home country must rely on friends and family back home. Similarly, if the events happened many years ago, it is difficult to get old records. In some countries, the authorities flat out refuse to give copies of police reports.
So, it is not uncommon for clients to ask, "What if I can't get these documents? Can I still win the asylum case?" My response is "If you don't buy the right shoes, can you get to the top of a mountain?" The answer is yes, you can go in a helicopter. But you would not want to try it because it is a much harder task and will take longer if you do not have access to a helicopter.
The same occurs with an asylum case. An applicant MUST provide a document OR provide a detailed description of all the efforts made to get the document. So, either get the death certificate of someone who was harmed in your home country OR get a statement from the spouse of the deceased giving a reasonable explanation of why s/he could not provide the death certificate.
What if the Documents are Wrong?Another common occurrence is a client who brings documents, but then she says that the report has the wrong date. Or the doctor made a mistake and did not mention all the injuries. To be clear, we do not submit any documents to the government or to the Immigration Courts if we doubt the complete truth of what is stated.
Our attorneys are ethically obligated to be truthful when representing clients. This high level of professionalism is also a benefit to our clients. Immigration Judges, Asylum Officers and attorneys representing Immigration have good memories. Because we have been representing asylum clients for decades, they know that our cases are complete, thoroughly prepared, and straightforward. It is easier to win asylum for clients because of this good reputation.
Conclusion: If documents have incorrect information, we wait until the corrected papers are provided.