Bloggings On Political Asylum


Jason Dzubow

The Asylum Affidavit, Part 3: TMI

This is the final (and much delayed)  installment in a series about
preparing a client's asylum affidavit.  I previously wrote about the
importance of including enough detail
to support a claim.  Today I want to discuss how to provide details
about sensitive topics, like rape or the murder of a loved one.

Immigration Judges love reading well crafted affidavits.

obvious reasons, most asylum applications involving discussing
unpleasant events.  However, some events are more unpleasant than
others.  For example, I worked on a case where my client witnessed the
murder of her mother and siblings during a genocide in her country.  At
the time of these murders, my client was just 11 years old.  In another
case, a client was arrested while returning from a political rally. 
While she was in custody, two policemen raped her.  In a third case, my
client quit his political party and, in a revenge attack, he was shot
six times and left for dead.

This is pretty horrific stuff, so how
do you present these event in a credible manner without forcing the
clients to re-live their trauma?

First, I think it is helpful if the client understands why
he needs to explain the painful aspects of his case.  I am no expert,
but I believe that when a client is educated about the requirements for
asylum, he feels more in control of his case and this might make it
easier for him to talk about past trauma. 

Second, it is important
to establish a rapport with the client so she feels comfortable and
safe discussing difficult issues.  While this may seem like a
no-brainer, it is often difficult for busy attorneys to spend the extra
time our clients need to make sure they are comfortable.

Third, it
is often not necessary to provide a lot of detail about a traumatic
event in order to establish past persecution.  For example, in my
case--where the political activist was raped by the police while
returning from a demonstration--we provided details about her political
involvement, the demonstration, and her detention.  When it came to the
actual rape, we stated that the police raped her, but we provided no
further details about the incident.  If she has established her
credibility and the fact finder believes that she has been raped, that
is enough to prove past persecution.  USCIS has some good training materials for Asylum Officers, which discuss this point:

asylum officer can elicit sufficient detail to establish credibility
and gain an understanding of the basis of the claim without probing too
deeply into all the details of a painful experience.

This is a key
point--it is not necessary to provide all the details about an event
like a rape.  The fact that the person was raped is, in-and-of-itself,
sufficient to show past persecution.

Finally, and to their credit,
Asylum Officers, DHS Trial Attorneys, and Immigration Judges tend to be
very sensitive to an alien's trauma.  I tell my clients about this, as I
believe it helps reduce the level of intimidation and makes it easier
for them to discuss their history.

While it is probably not
possible to prepare a case without discussing traumatic events to some
extent, it is possible--and important--to minimize the secondary trauma
our clients suffer while preparing their asylum applications.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

About The Author

Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.In December 2011, Washingtonian magazine recognized Dr. Dzubow as one of the best immigration lawyers in the Washington, DC area; in March 2011, he was listed as one of the top 25 legal minds in the country in the area of immigration law. Mr. Dzubow is also an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University in Virginia.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.