Thursday, June 08, 2006

Infamous Immigration Judge Replaced

Honorable Judge Donald V. Ferlise was replaced from his Philadelphia-based Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) position. Judge Ferlise is perhaps best know for presiding over the precedent-setting FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) case of Fauziya Kassindja from Togo.
He was accused of "belligerent questioning and a failure to consider relevant evidence, "brow-beating", and "nitpicking".

I served as a country-conditions expert on Uganda on a former Lord's Resistance Army member's asylum case in May 2006. I was very nervous about appearing in front of Judge Ferlise -- his reputation certainly preceded him. But I was totally surprised by his demeanor in the courtroom. He was exceedingly polite to me and to the asylum seeker. He never rudely interupted my testimony and seemed to be genuinely interested in what I had to say. So, I have mixed feelings about this development. I can't reconcile my recent experience with Judge Ferlise with his infamous reputation. Not to necessarily defend the man, but I think that he is genuinely interested in finding the truth -- and maybe he was too quick to judge an asylum-seeker's credibility.
This is perhaps more of a shortcoming of the system, rather than the man. It's much easier to determine whether there is a well-founded fear of persecution based on objective conditions, than subjective conditions. But to win an asylum case in immigration court, an asylum seeker has to prove both an objective and subjective past persecution and/or wellfounded fear of future persecution.
So much rests on the credibility of the asylum-seeker -- and the ability of the immigration judge to determine whether the asylum seeker is telling the truth.
Maybe it's the system that's broke, not the man?

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