Friday, September 26, 2008

Mukasey Mops Up

Attorney General Michael Mukasey may be starting to make some headway into the mess that Ashcroft and Gonzales made of our asylum system. First, on Monday, he vacated and remanded the Board of Immigration Appeals' A-T- decision (about which I first posted here). A-T-, a young woman from Mali, applied for withholding of removal (a status similar to asylum but requiring a higher standard of proof and providing fewer benefits) on various grounds, namely that she had been forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) as a young girl, that she didn't want her daughter to be subject to FGM, and that she feared forced marriage to her cousin were she to return to Mali. The immigration judge in her case held that because A-T- couldn't remember the mutilation, she had not suffered past persecution. The Board of Immigration Appeals, the immigration system's administrative review body, decided that because A-T- had suffered FGM in the past, she could not be subjected to FGM in the future, and therefore could not have a well-founded fear of future persecution. Mukasey, thankfully, understood the errors in the Board's reasoning, and explained in his opinion that FGM can be and often is inflicted numerous times on the same woman. Moreover, he underscored that future persecution need not take the exact form of past persecution -- asylum law requires only that the harm be inflicted for the same reason as it was in the past. While Prof. Kevin Johnson over at ImmigrationProf Blog may be right that this is just a cynical election-year ploy, there's still plenty of room to celebrate for A-T-, women who've suffered FGM, and their daughters.
And on Wednesday, Mukasey decided not to reconsider the Board's decision affirming an immigration judge's grant of asylum in the Nadarajah case (which I've written about here). Almost seven years ago, at the age of 20, Ahilan Nadarajah fled Sri Lanka, where he had been horribly tortured, to seek asylum in the United States. In the words of his lawyer:
He was detained for four and a half of those nearly seven years, based on false secret evidence that he was a threat to national security. Even after we won his habeas, the government continued to subject him to electronic monitoring and a curfew until we sued to have those conditions removed. Even then, his immigration case continued to sit undecided before the AG, until yesterday.
While this victory is again great cause for celebration, it should give us all pause that our government locked up an innocent man who sought no more than his freedom in the United States, based on overblown and unverified rumors about his national security status. Here's hoping that Mukasey mops up a few more messes before he's done.

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