What Facts Do Asylum Officers Write In Their Assessments?

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When an asylum officer interviews the applicant, the officer takes notes, often more than 10 pages. Later, in consultation with his supervisor, the officer writes an “Assessment to Refer” or an “Assessment to Grant.” This document is usually three or four pages.

At times, the notes are used against the applicant in immigration court. Guan v. Barr, 2019 WL 2293080 (9th Cir. 2019). Assessments to Refer are also used. Shi v. Sessions, 751 Fed. Appx. 684 (6th Cir. 2018). In the case Li v. Holder, 745 F.3d 336 (8th Cir. 2014) the name of asylum officer Kuriakose is mentioned 15 times.

Asylum officers sometimes make mistakes. They find some sources important; others are ignored. To avoid surprise in court, and to find out what the officer wrote, the advocate should make a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request for the notes and the Assessment. Asylum officer notes are easily available via FOIA. I have been surprised by how often an applicant will not tell me something, even after hours in my office, but then I see he told the asylum officer something additional during the interview.

The factual portions of Assessments to Refer are now generally available, via FOIA. Gatore v. DHS, 327 F. Supp. 3d 76 (D.D.C. 2018).

Catholic Charities of Washington DC obtained the factual portions of 21 asylum officer assessments; what follows are comments and observations gleaned from them:

Age, exact date of arrival in United States; immigration history in United States

All the officers began their Assessments with the age, exact date of arrival; status upon arrival, and immigration history here.

Compliance with the one-year deadline

All the officers discussed whether or not the applicant satisfied the one-year deadline.

Weapons used to inflict harm were mentioned

“Plastic rubber” “kicked” “doused with cold water” “batons, belt, knife; handcuffed in the sun” were mentioned.

Was there, or was there not, physical harm

If there was no physical harm, the officers often said that. If there was physical harm, but no medical care thereafter, the officers often said that. Some officers said in just one sentence: “applicant was raped.” Others gave minute descriptions: “scratched his left cheek with nails:” “little finger on his right hand was hurt”

Officers did not care about emotional harm

One applicant’s car was shot at; the officer wrote: “no one was harmed.”

Not one officer wrote something like: “applicant suffered great emotional distress and had nightmares.”

Words and questions by prison guards and police are important

Officers often quoted questions and words used by guards and police: “Why did you protest?” “You will be next!” “We will kill you.” Motive is important. Words often reveal motive.

Applicant did, or did not, report harm to the police

Officers frequently wrote: “applicant did not report this to the police.” Not one officer wrote anything such as “applicant claims it would be a waste of time or dangerous” to report to the police.

Passports are important

Possessing a fake passport annoyed some officers; the fact that the country issued or re-newed a passport was evidence of lack of persecution.

Returning to the “dangerous” country

If the applicant voluntarily returned to his country after suffering harm, officers often noted that event. If applicant already returned once to his country, why can’t he return again?

Internal relocation

Mentioned, but only a few words spent on it.

Harm to family members

Officers often noted when family members were imprisoned or harmed.

Country conditions

Rarely mentioned.

Corroboration from family members

Almost never mentioned. Not one officer wrote: “Letter from father confirms the harm.”

Was applicant treated differently from others

If the police arrested everyone in the room, the officer would say so. If ten people were at a restaurant, and only applicant was arrested, the officer would say so.

Harm to similarly-situated persons

Rarely mentioned by officers

Harm to family after departure

This was mentioned by a number of officers.

Activities in United States

If applicant continued to denounce and criticize his government while here in the United States, many officers noted that.

Department of State reports

Mentioned by three officers.

Human Rights Watch

Mentioned by two officers.

www.refworld.org

Mentioned by two officers

Case law

Only one officer cited any cases: he cited Matter of A-H-, 23 I&N Dec 774 and

Haddam v. Holder (no citation). These cases deal with “assistance in persecution.”

[Haddam v. Holder is found at 547 Fed. Appx. 306 (4th Cir. 2013)]

RAIO lesson plans

Only one officer mentioned asylum officer lesson plans.

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HOW TO MAKE A FOIA REQUEST

You do not need Form G-28; nor do you need Form G-639. You can do it on one page: see Exhibit A attached hereto. You need only to comply with the requirements of 6 C.F.R. § 5.21(f) : name of the person, place of birth; date of birth; address; and a signature, with a declaration in accord with 28 U.S.C. § 1746.

ASYLUM OFFICER LESSON PLANS

Lesson plans can be very instructive. They are updated and published somewhat randomly. On January 17, 2019, the RAIO published a 37-page Training Module on “Firm Resettlement;” and a 47-page module on “Well-Founded Fear.” [both available on the US-CIS website, in its “Electronic Reading Room.”]

EXHIBIT “A” FOIA REQUEST

FOIA Officer for US-CIS

Lee's Summit, MO 64064-8010

Fax: [816] 350-5785 <USCIS.FOIA@USCIS.DHS.GOV>

FOIA Request for Micha Xyzxyz


Dear Sir or Madam:

Catholic Charities of Washington is a “third party” making a request for records of the individual named above. This individual agrees that his/her records may be released to us.

Catholic Charities hereby requests:

-a copy of the assessment written by the Asylum Officer;

-a copy of the notes of the asylum officer

-a copy of the “country conditions” evidence mentioned in the Referral Notice

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We also request Track 3 priority processing treatment.

Attached hereto is Notice of hearing/ Notice to Appear.

Sincerely,

Catholic Charities of Washington

c/o David L. Cleveland

924 G Street NW

Washington, DC 20001 [202] 772-4345

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = == =

I, Micha Xyzxyz hereby declare under penalty of perjury:

- I agree that my records may be released to: Catholic Charities of Washington, 924 G Street NW, Wash. DC 20001;

-I was born on 01/01/1999 in Pretoria, S.A.;

-my address is: 123 Main Street, Falls Church, VA 22123;

-my A# is 123-123-123

I hereby declare under penalty of perjury, as per 28 U.S.C. § 1746, that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on ________ Signature: _______________

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About The Author

David L. Cleveland, staff attorney at Catholic Charities of Washington, DC, was Chair of the AILA Asylum Committee (2004-05) and has secured asylum or withholding for people from 47 countries.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.