Friday, August 19, 2011

New Immigration Reform a Step in the Right Direction, But more Desperately needed

The Obama administration has finally started to address the backlog of pending deportation cases and prioritize the most critical for removal. But what the Obama administration has not addressed is the stunning backlog of Board of Immigration Appeal (BIA) cases. In one case that our class worked on, the asylum seeker was granted asylum by the Immigration judge based on her membership in a particular social group (FGM), but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immediately appealed the decision to the BIA, citing that they thought the asylum seeker was a "persecutor" of others because she was (forced) to perform female genital mutilation (FGM) on a young girl. The Government appealed on the basis of an old case Fedorenko v. United States, 449 U.S. 490 (1981), which was questioned by a newer Supreme Court ruling Negusie v. Holder, 555 U.S.___(2009), which argued that the BIA and United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit erred when they evaluated Negusie's asylum petition because they presumed it mandatory that an alien's coercion to persecute was immaterial when determining whether the "persecutor bar" applies.

Her case has been pending since 1997 -- so she has been in limbo for 4 years! Since then, she has had a daughter and is expecting another child this year. The fact that she has 2 U.S. citizen children will not prevent her from been sent back to Sierra Leone if the BIA reverses the Immigration Judge's grant of asylum (although the whole case can then be appealed to the Third Circuit and ultimately the Supreme Court).

But, you can just imagine how stressful this is for her to remain in limbo for so long! You can read about her story at,

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