Monday, August 07, 2006

U.S. Asylum policies

An excellent study by TRAC (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse) -- a reserach group connected to Syracuse University recently released a report on how U.S. immigration judges (IJs) compared in grants and denials of asylum. The report, attached in the link, shows that there were in fact wide disparities in the number of grants or denials of asylum claims in the US based on data compiled from 1994-1999 and 2000-2005. Having worked as country conditions "expert" on Ugandan and Cameroonian asylum cases, I have appeared in front of many different immigration judges in many different circuits. I have a very high sucess rate with my cases, but that is more a consequence of the fact that many big law firms taking on the cases pro bono that have requested me to serve as a "expert witness" have almost unlimited resources to prove that the asylum seeker did in fact have a "well founded fear of persecution" or did suffer past persecution (including pyschologist's reports, medical evaluations for torture etc). So, even though there is a great deal of variance between grants and rejections with different IJs based on "temperment" etc., I think the bigger issue is whether asylum seekers have access to a lawyer or not -- that truly determines whether they will win their case or not. TRAC also provides some data with regard to that issue -- 93.4% of asylum seekers are denied without an attorney, while 64% are denied with an attorney.

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