Credible Testimony Crucial for Political Asylum Applicants

The United States is well known as a land of refuge for those fleeing persecution in their home country. A person asking for political asylum or refuge in the United States must show that he or she is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of persecution or a well founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group or political opinion.

To establish a well-founded fear of persecution, an applicant must show that the fear us both objectively reasonable and subjectively genuine. An applicant can satisfy the subjective aspect by credibly testifying that he genuinely fears persecution. The objective requirement can be satisfied in one of two ways. One way is to prove persecution in the past, which gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that a well-founded fear of future persecution exists. The other way is to show a good reason to fear future persecution by adducing credible, direct, and specific evidence of facts that would support a reasonable fear of persecution. The objective requirement can be very difficult to prove. Most people do not think to pack supporting documents when they flee the country that is persecuting them. Equally importantly, governments or other persecuting agencies do not provide affidavits or other documents attesting to the fact that they are persecuting someone.

Many times, an asylum officer or immigration judge will deny the request for political asylum because the applicant does not have any independent documentation to back up the testimony given at the interview or the court. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has confirmed that such corroborating evidence is not necessary if the applicant has testified credible. In Ladha v. INS, the Court said that, because the applicant’s testimony was believable and consistent and credible, the government could not require corroborative evidence in order to grant political asylum. In other words, while the applicant was free to provide any corroborative evidence he has, the government could not deny the application just because he didn’t have it.

This is very important because corroborative evidence is so difficult to obtain. However, the ruling also stresses how important it is to testify credible. Credible testimony is more than just testifying truthfully. Interviews and courtrooms are strange settings to most people. Applicants are likely to get confused and to mis-speak. They are also likely to forget certain facts because of nervousness. It is very important that an applicant be thoroughly prepared for testifying by his or her attorney. The lawyer should go over the testimony with the applicant many times. In fact, the attorney should cross-examine the applicant so that the applicant will get used to answering questions under stress. Attorneys experienced in asylum immigration matters will be familiar with the types of questions asked by the government lawyers and will be able to properly prepare the applicant for testifying. Be sure your attorney is an expert in immigration law. Also make sure that you both arrange enough time to prepare your case adequately.