Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lusingo: media blitz can be basis for asylum claim and rejects government's "myopic" assertions

Filed 08/19/05, No. 03-4418
Lusingo v. Atty Gen USA
Lusingo v. Gonzales

The Third Circuit held that fear of retaliation from one's former government because it is embarrassed by the coverage given during a media blitz can be a basis for asylum if there is evidence the country persecutes those who embarrass it.

Here, a 16-year old came to the U.S. from Tanzania for a Boy Scout event and ran away, unknowningly launching a media frenzy while people searched for him. He turned himself in to the police, who rudely turned him over to immigration authorities for deportation. After he expressed fear that if deported Tanzania would punish him for embarrassing them, the media printed stories about how Tanzania treats children badly in prison. Very embarrassing for Tanzania.

The BIA incorrectly rejected the asylum claim based on their ruling that it was objectively unreasonable: they did not understand why it was relevant that Tanzania persecutes street children whose existence embarrass it publicly and it was concerned that his parents who still live in Tanzania have not been persecuted.

The Third Circuit rejected the BIA's rationale. First, the BIA completely missed the point of what is happening to street children: the point is that Tanzania persecutes those who embarrass it. It is irrelevant that the 16-year old in question is not a street child. He embarrassed Tanzania by causing a media frenzy about Tanzania's poor treatment of children, not because he himself purported to be a street child. Second, it is irrelevant that the parents have not been persecuted, because the parents had no idea the child was going to try to stay in the United States and the parents had no control over the media frenzy. So, the fact that Tanzania has not persecuted the kid's parents is not proof that Tanzania will not persecute the kid.

The Third Circuit remanded the case for the BIA to explain itself further. But the Third Circuit rejected two "myopic" arguments that the government tried: first, the government actually argued that the lack of any letters to the editor in Tanzania's newspapers suggests nobody in Tanzania cared about the embarrassing media frenzy. This is "disingenuous or embarrassingly naive" because if Tanzania persecutes those who embarrass it publicly, perhaps nobody wrote a letter to the editor because they feared persecution. Second, the government argued that fact that the ambassador of Tanzania said to the media that the boy will not be persecuted is proof that he is safe to return. This is "myopic" because if Tanzania is planning to persecute the boy, it would never have its ambassador publicly admit that. Instead, it would have its ambassador lie to the media and say the boy is supposedly safe to return, while secretly planning to persecute him. Ah, our taxpayer dollars hard at work.


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