Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chukwu: Errors In Denying Asylum Claim on Credibility And Corroboration

In Chukwu v. Gonzales, No. 05-4068 (3d Cir. April 13, 2007), the Third Circuit overturned the IJ and BIA to permit someone seeking asylum to get a fair hearing. The first hearing was improperly decided because the IJ and BIA did not take into account evidence that explained many of the discrepancies that the IJ relied on to when concluding the asylum-seeker was not credible. Also, the IJ failed to analyze whether it was reasonable to expect him to obtain corroboration of details the IJ assumed should have been corroborated.

As in all asylum applications before May 11, 2005 (pre-REAL ID), a conclusion that someone is not believable can be based on inconsistencies only if those inconsistencies relate to facts at the heart of the asylum claim, not just unimportant details. Examples of the IJ and BIA's mistakes include: saying he lived with his wife until 2001 yet his wife saying that he abandoned the family in 1999 is consistent considering the evidence that he intermittently and continuously abandoned her from 1999 to 2001 so he likely returned home intermittently from 1999-2001. The IJ and BIA concluded that there was no evidence his wife was persecuted, but the evidence included details about how his wife was detained, harassed, and intimidated for political reasons. The IJ and BIA concluded it would have been impossible for him to leave the country without being arrested if he really was being sought after but ignored his explanation that the country did not have any national database or way to check traveler's names against a list of people sought. The IJ and BIA complained that his ID card did not state his home address, but apparently ignored the evidence that the address was the political party's local headquarters. The Third Circuit believed the IJ did not hinge the entire conclusion on discrepancies in the airport interview because the Third Circuit has frequently held that airport statement inconsistencies alone are not enough to find someone not credible. (This makes sense because people coming off flights at the airport are often scared, confused, tired, and not sure what to say to questioning immigration officials.)

Regarding the lack of corroboration, an IJ must give notice of what corroboration is expected and give a chance to explain why it is impossible to obtain the expected corroborating evidence.


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