Friday, August 11, 2006

Can the U.S. learn from France's Blanket Amnesty Policy?

France has established a blanket amnesty for its illegal immigrants. The amnesty focuses on illegal immigrant families with school-age children. At least one child must be born in France or arrived before the age of 13 and be in school in France for two years to be eligible.
How would this work in the U.S.? And why would this be fair? Why should people who have children be given "special rights" over all the other illegal immigrants?
What kind of precedent is France establishing? The United States did a similar thing in the 1980s with the "Dream Act". What is the answer? What do you do with all the illegal immigrants in the U.S. Do you send them back to their countries of origin? Do you allow them to remain?
What about all the people waiting for years to immigrate legally to the U.S.
More visas, laxer standards? What is the answer?

Australia gets tough on asylum seekers

So does Australia have it right? Put asylum seekers who arrive in Australian waters by boat to remote islands while they await action on their asylum cases?
What does the U.S. do with Haitian boat people? We don't even give them a chance to claim asylum: as long as they are apprehended before they touch U.S. soil (beaches or bridges for example) we send them right back to Haiti.
There are problems with the asylum process in many developing countries because short of immigrating on a family, employment or diversity visa -- people who are very poor often cannot secure legal passage to these countries. So they either arrive ilegally or they claim asylum status.
What is the solution?
Surely not putting them on islands or back on boats?

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.