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7th Circuit Oral Arguments on Motion to Reopen

Yesterday, we argued a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit for our client, Ms. L. The audio from the oral arguments is below.

Ms. L fled China at the age of 19 after she was arrested and beaten for proselytizing and passing out Christian fliers at her high school. She arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and requested asylum. She was placed in detention and scheduled for a hearing before an immigration judge. Her family in the U.S. hired a lawyer who failed to appear for the hearing. The immigration judge rescheduled the hearing, but the lawyer did not appear at the second hearing. Ms. L requested additional time to find a competent lawyer, but the judge expressed no sympathy despite the obvious ineffective assistance Ms. L had received. The judge deemed Ms. L’s request for asylum abandoned and ordered her removed (deported). However, Immigration & Customs Enforcement was unable to deport Ms. L because the Chinese government refused to accept her back, and Ms. L was eventually released after a year in jail.

Ms. L then moved to NY with her family, got married, and had two children. Several years later, she attempted to reopen her asylum case, arguing that there were changed country conditions in China and that she would be persecuted under the Chinese one-child family planning policy and on account of her religious beliefs. Unfortunately, Immigration Judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals often rely on the U.S. Department of State’s “Profile of Asylum Claims and Country Conditions” when analyzing country conditions. Such “Profiles” are deeply flawed, and would not withstand even the most basic scrutiny from any objective demographer. They are not publicly available, do not provide footnotes or sourcing for the information, often rely on statements of officials from the country being reported on (i.e., asking the alleged persecutors whether they persecute and then accepting the answer as truth), and provide outdated information. Further, the “Profiles” are inherently generalized and do not provide an individualized analysis of an asylum applicant’s claim.

In this case, Ms. L submitted an expert’s affidavit documenting the unreliability of the U.S. Department of State’s Profile on China as well as presenting a drastically different picture of China’s persecution of both Christians and individuals who have violated the one-child family planning policy. However, the Board declined to consider the affidavit by stating, without explanation, that it did not consider our expert to be an expert. This was stunning, as the expert has devoted her life to the study of Chinese policy, has worked for the French consulate in China, obtained a PHD in Chinese law and policy, and is a professor at a prestigious university on the subject.

We appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and the case was heard before Judge Frank Easterbrook, Judge Daniel Manion, and Judge Ilana Rovner. The audio is below, and we’ll post an update when we get a decision.