Under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") an alien who is "firmly resettled" in a third country is ineligible for asylum in the United States. See INA § 208(b)(2)(A)(vi); see also 8 C.F.R. § 1208.15.


If Angelina Jolie shows up, it probably means you are not firmly resettled.

It's been more than 20 years since the BIA issued an opinion on firm resettlement, and during that period, the various federal circuit courts have weighed in, creating a patchwork of inconsistent law across the U.S.  In a new decision, Matter of A-G-G-, 25 I&N Dec. 486 (BIA May 12, 2011), the Board has issued important guidance concerning firm resettlement.

The BIA held that the Department of Homeland Security has the initial burden to make a prima facie showing of an offer of firm resettlement by presenting direct evidence of an alien's ability to stay indefinitely in a third country.  When direct evidence is unavailable, indirect evidence may be used if it has a sufficient level of clarity and force to establish that the alien is able to permanently reside in the country.  An asylum applicant can rebut this evidence by showing by a preponderance of the evidence that such an offer has not been made or that the applicant's circumstances would render him or her ineligible for such an offer of permanent residence.

The failure to apply for permanent residence where it is available to an alien does not rebut evidence of firm resettlement.  Thus, evidence that permanent resident status is available to the alien under the law of the third country may be sufficient to make a prima facie showing of an offer of firm resettlement, and a determination that the alien is firmly resettled is not contingent on whether the alien applies for permanent status in the third country.

It makes sense that the initial burden of proving firm resettlement is on the DHS-in most cases, an alien subject to the firm resettlement bar will have lived for a time in a third country.  In this case, the alien, A-G-G-, was a Mauritanian national who lived in Senegal for eight years.  He married a Senegalese citizen.  The fact that the alien resided in Senegal alerted DHS to the possibility of a firm resettlement bar, and they submitted evidence that A-G-G- could live permanently in Senegal.  A-G-G- then had an opportunity to rebut that evidence.  The fact that he chose not to apply for permanent status in Senegal was not sufficient-in and of itself-to avoid a permanent resettlement bar.  However, if there was some reason that A-G-G- could not live in Senegal, he could have presented that evidence and perhaps avoided the bar.

Matter of A-G-G- seems to strike a fair balance between protecting an asylum seeker's ability to obtain asylum and preserving the government's interest in barring people who have permanent residency elsewhere.

Originally published on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com

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