Political asylum is critical to human rights protection

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May 01, 2015 Political asylum is critical to human rights protection

Political asylum is critical to human rights protection. Asylum protection is all the more near and dear to my heart, because my second adjudication experience was an asylum case, through my law school’s immigration law clinic, after my first deportation hearing following my client’s felony conviction for importing two kilograms of cocaine.

My first political asylum/deportation trial (because if asylum is denied, a deportation order can result, so the stakes are high) arose from my client’s denied political asylum application. Had my client come straight from his native Ethiopia (in the mid-1980’s) to the United States, he would have prevailed at his deportation hearing, having received a State Department opinion that he had a well founded fear of persecution if returned to Ethiopia, which I of course characterized to the administrative law judge as being run by a Marxist government during the time of the highly anti-Marxist Reagan administration. Unfortunately for my client, he first found refuge in Zimbabwe, and immigration law did not favor shopping for the ideal nation of refuge. We lost the hearing. The loss was tough for me, but those not willing to risk losing should not do trials.

Thankfully, armed with more sympathetic evidence, just months earlier at the asylum interview stage, I won asylum for another Ethiopian client, threatened by the Marxist government for his avid church activities.

Praised be the Fourth Circuit yesterday for reversing the executive branch’s Board of Immigration Appeals, ruling that an asylum applicant met the grounds for asylum eligibility, because the Salvadoran government had no control over the Mara 18 gang that kept threatening her life. Hernandez-Avalos v, Lynch, ___ F.3d ___ (4th Cir., April 3, 2015). Hernandez-Avalos applies the following standard to establish eligibility for asylum under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A): "Hernandez must prove that she (1) has a well-founded fear of persecution; (2) on account of a protected ground; (3) by an organization that the Salvadoran government is unable or unwilling to control. Lopez-Soto v. Ashcroft, 383 F.3d 228, 234 (4th Cir. 2004) (vacated pending reh’g en banc on other grounds)."

The Fourth Circuit is no bastion of liberal judges. This was a great victory for Ms. Hernandez-Avalos. Thanks and congratulations to local lawyer Tamara Jezic for this great win on behalf of Ms. Hernandez-Avalos.

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