Thursday, November 24, 2005

Butt: Asylum Credibility Finding Overturned
Butt v. Gonzales
Butt v. Attorney General
Filed 11/23/05, No. 03-436
Precedential decision

When the immigration judge rules that the asylum-seeker is not credible, it is very difficult to overturn the finding on appeal. But it is not impossible. The legal standard for factual findings such as a finding that someone is not credible is that you must prove the finding is not supported by substantial evidence. Singh-Kaur v. Ashcroft, 385 F.3d 293, 296 (3d Cir. 2004). Put another way, you must prove that a reasonable factfinder would have to conclude that fear of persecution existed. INS v. Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478, 481 (1992); see also Abdille v. Ashcroft, 242 F.3d 477, 483–84 (3d Cir. 2001).

Keep in mind that if a judge finds someone not credible, the Third Circuit will give substantial defense "so long as the findings are supported by sufficient cogent reasons.” Reynoso-Lopez v. Ashcroft, 369 F.3d 275, 278 (3d Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Check whether the judge offered a specific, cogent reason why the asylum-seeker was not believable.

Here, the asylum-seeker proved that the immigration judge's finding that he was not credible must be overturned.

Here's what the immigration judge (IJ) relied on: the asylum-seeker and his wife said he was treated for injuries at home, not in a medical clinic. Meanwhile, a doctor at the medical clinic wrote that the asylum-seeker remained under his treatment for 35 days. The IJ said that based on a common-sense reading of the note, it was clear that the asylum-seeker stayed at the medical clinic for 35 days. The Third Circuit pointed out the major flaw -- many people who saw a doctor for 35 days but received treatment at home would nevertheless say they remained under the doctor's treatment. Therefore, the Third Circuit overturned the IJ's belief that the asylum-seeker lied and should not be believed.

The only other reasons offered by the IJ were that the supporting testimony was thin and flimsy. These blanket statements are too general and conclusory to withstand analysis, so the Third Circuit remanded for further proceedings.


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