A couple of recent articles got me thinking about how the U.S.
handles asylum seekers coming from countries that we view as
friends-Western-style democracies that generally respect human rights.

The first is an article from the Jewish Daily Forward
(featuring a quote from my esteemed law partner, Todd Pilcher) about
asylum seekers from Israel. The article found that 18 Israeli nationals
sought asylum in Fiscal Year 2011. The article found that*the asylees
were a "strange and quirky mix:"

One, an Arab citizen of Israel, is a gay
man who convinced authorities he would face violence from his own family
and tribe if forced to return to Israel. Lack of adequate action by
Israeli police played a role in the approval of the request, his
attorney said. Another is an Israeli woman who suffered domestic abuse.
She also received asylum after making the case that Israeli authorities
were not protecting her. Yet a third is the son of a founder of Hamas
who, after spying on the terrorist-designated group for Israeli
authorities, felt unsafe under Israeli protection and fled to the United
States in fear for his life [I wrote about this case here].

German citizens react to the news that one of their own has received asylum in the U.S.

The second article
is a follow-up on a homeschooler family that received asylum from
Germany. *In that case, an Immigration Judge found that the family faced
persecution in Germany after they refused for religious reasons to send
their children to public school, as required by German law. The Board
of Immigration Appeals reversed the IJ's decision last May, and the
homeschoolers filed a petition for review and a brief with the Sixth Circuit. The case is currently pending.

Other "Western" countries listed
as source countries for asylum seekers in the U.S. include Argentina (9
people granted asylum in FY 2011), Brazil (20 people), Germany (4),
Latvia (6), New Zealand (5), Poland (6), and the United Kingdom (8).
These numbers are pretty small given the total of 24,988 people granted asylum in FY 2011, but such cases raise some interesting questions.

First, how do the source countries feel about a decision from the
U.S. government that they are persecuting (or, at best, failing to
protect from persecution) their own citizens? When asked by the
Forward,*an Israeli diplomat said that the scarcity of asylum cases in
the United States did not require the Israeli government to bring up the
issue with Washington. The official added that the few cases in which
Israelis were granted asylum in America represented "unusual
circumstances" and did not reflect on Israel's democracy. I'd bet that
like the Israelis, most Western democracies see these asylum cases as
aberrations and aren't particularly bothered by them. One country that
is annoyed by our State Department's practice of evaluating the human
rights situation in other countries is China. In "retaliation" for our
report, China issues its own report, which describes a litany of human rights abuses in the United States.

A related issue is whether-if the number of asylum cases form a
particular allied country increased-that country could raise the issue
diplomatically in order to curtail asylum grants. Theoretically, asylum
should be independent of politics, but the Forward article raises the
example of Israeli conscientious objectors who received asylum in
Canada. Apparently, "Canada has approved dozens of asylum requests from
individuals claiming political persecution by Israel since 2000."
According to the Forward, in 2006, the Israeli government protested
Canada's asylum policies. And in the past two years the number of
Israelis receiving asylum in Canada has declined. If this is correct,
and the decline in asylum grants is related to the Israeli protest, it
raises serious concerns about the integrity of the Canadian asylum

Another question raised by these asylum cases is, how the heck do you
get granted asylum from a country like New Zealand or the UK? My guess
is that these cases involve very special circumstances, like victims of
human trafficking who have not received adequate protection, or maybe
sexual orientation cases where the person was subject to severe abuse.
Another possibility is that the Immigration Judge and the DHS attorney
agreed to grant asylum in order to address an otherwise inequitable
situation. For example, I once had a case where my client was convicted
of an aggravated felony. She had been here for many years, had a family
with a special needs child, and it was obvious that the only reason for
her conviction was the incompetence of her criminal lawyer (her crime
was very minor). Although it was pretty clear that she did not
qualify for withholding of removal, the IJ would have granted relief to
resolve the situation. Unfortunately, the DHS attorney did not agree.
Had the attorney agreed, the client would have received relief, even
though she really did not qualify. Maybe something similar is happening
in some of the asylum cases at issue here.

Asylum cases from Western democracies are relatively rare. But there
are enough such cases to help prove the adage, no country is safe for
everyone all the time.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.