A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Religious Asylum Application Found Incredible

A Chinese citizen's asylum application based on religious persecution was denied by a federal appeals court recently because he was found not to be credible.  The court questioned the fact that there are striking similarities between his application and two other asylum applications in wordings, format, and substance.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the denied of an asylum application filed by a Mr. Wang from China in Wang vs. Lynch.  Mr. Wang's asylum application was actually granted initially by an immigration judge.  However, the decision was appealed by DHS and the BIA remanded the case to the immigration court for further inquiries.  The case was assigned to another immigration judge who then denied his asylum application due to lack of credibility.  Mr. Wang appealed the denial to the federal appeal court.

The crux of the case is Mr. Wang's credibility.  Specifically, Mr. Wang was found not to be credible on account of the fact that his statement filed in support of his political asylum application contains a lot of similarities to two other unrelated applications.  These applications narrate very similar stories. For examples, two applicants were introduced to the Christian faith by a nurse who was caring for a friend or family member in a government run hospital.   In all three accounts, the applicants were participating in church services at a church member's home at either 10 am or 10:30 am when three public security officers arrived; two applicants were ordered to stand in the kitchen.  At the police station, the stories were also similar. The applicants were interrogated regarding their "anti-government purposes" and the locations of other family churches; beaten up by the police officers; detained in small, dirty cells with about half a dozen other inmates; and were either fed very little or had their food stolen.  All three interrogations also lasted forty minutes.  In all applications, the worshippers were referred to as a "devil cult".  Upon their release they were all asked to report to the police station every week, terminated from their job, and ordered to write repenting letters.  

Further, all three statements were formatted similarly; they use the same font type, font size, typeface, margins, spacing, headings, etc.  Based on these similarities the second immigration judge and the BIA were not convinced that Mr. Wang's story was credible.  On appeal, Mr. Wang tried to explain the similarities by arguing that these asylum claims are all based on religious persecution in China, The court explained that while similar stories are expected, identical narration of their experiences suggests something else.  Mr. Wang also explained that the statements were similar because they were prepared by the same office. However, Mr. Wang's testimony was that he used a church friend as a translator and that he did not tell his story to other third parties.  The court also pointed out that the statements used the same wordings such as "devil cult" and "reactionary purpose", which suggest that they were drafted by the same person or persons.  

Because Mr. Wang failed to provide any plausible explanation for the similarities between his applications and two other applications, the court upheld the negative credibility finding of the immigration court.  Since credibility is the basis for any asylum claim, Mr. Wang's asylum application was properly denied.  Here, we cannot speculate whether or not Mr. Wang was indeed persecuted or not.  But even if he did have a valid claim, the court would not have known since he used questionable personnel to prepare his application.  This is just another example of how an immigration case is denied because an applicant failed to seek proper legal advice.  

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