Monday, April 05, 2010

Shehaj (not precedential): Airport Interview Not Proper Basis For Adverse Credibility Determination

Shehaj v. Holder
Not Precedential
No. 08-3812
December 22, 2009

Judges Ambro, Aldisert, and Roth. Opinion by Judge Ambro. Overturning the BIA and Immigration Judge Frederic G. Leeds.

Ms. Shehaj sought asylum and when she arrived in Toronto, Canadian officials interviewed her at the airport and jotted down two pages of notes. Ms. Shahaj conceded that she had lied to the Canadian officials because people who brought her to Canada coached her to lie in order to get released by the Canadian authorities.

IJ Leeds denied the asylum application and said he was "unfortunately compelled" to find Ms. Shehaj not credible due to her lies to the Canadian officials -- even though Ms. Shahaj's story was consistent with news reports and country condition reports.

The BIA upheld IJ Leeds's credibility determination because the BIA held it was not clearly erroneous.

In October 2008, the Third Circuit granted Ms. Shehaj's motion for a stay of removal.

The BIA and IJ Leeds erred by focusing on the lies to the Canadian officials without considering whether the totality of the circumstances and all relevant factors supported finding her not credible. The BIA and IJ also did not address Ms. Shehaj's explanation for why she had lied or to analyze why that explanation would not be adequate.

The Third Circuit also noted that inconsistencies between an airport statement and an asylum-seeker's testimony is not sufficient, standing alone, to find the person not credible. Fiadjoe v. Att'y Gen., 411 F.3d 135, 159 (3d Cir. 2005). Common problems include that the person is often disoriented during the interview, the interviewers usually offer scant and incomplete notes of the interview.


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