Mean Spirited Legislation Hurts Asylum Seekers (Real ID Law Part 2)

By: Attys. Robert L. Reeves and Nathan Graham

This is the second article addressing some of the harmful effects that the REAL-ID law has on asylum seekers and to the United States of America. In the first article, the provisions of the law affecting persons seeking to obtain or renew their drivers’ licenses, and persons seeking review of their denied cases in court were discussed. The focus of this article is to address the wide-ranging negative effects that the REAL-ID law has on asylum seekers and refugees.

Under the re-worked asylum provisions, an asylum-seeker will, among other things, be required to prove that one of the “central reasons” for their persecution was their membership in a persecuted race, ethnic group, political group, or other identifiable class. This represents a greatly heightened bar for an asylum applicant to reach to obtain asylum. Effectively, it will prove to be a nearly impossible burden of proof to meet, as this requires the applicant to establish exactly what their persecutors were thinking about at the time that they were being subjected to abuse and torture. Governments that indulge in ethnic, racial, or political persecution are not in the business of creating and maintaining meticulous records detailing their evil deeds. Even if any such records existed in an individual case, it is easy to imagine the response with which a request made to that government would be met. Totalitarian regimes are rarely willing to release the kind of documents that may now be necessary to support an asylum application because to do so would expose the dictatorship to international criticism and ridicule. Absent these documents to establish a central motivating factor behind an asylum applicant’s abuse, the applicant will have greater difficulty establishing their claim regardless of how great their suffering might have been, how much they fear forceful return to their home country, or how much more pain may be in store for them upon being returned to the clutches of their eagerly-awaiting persecutors.

It is the very thought of what awaits the denied asylum applicant upon returning home that will drive asylum seekers underground in an attempt to remain in the U.S., as the prospect of remaining undocumented and illegal in the U.S. is far better than the prospect of returning home to torture, abuse, or murder. The numbers of undocumented immigrants will grow dramatically. The licensing and identification provisions of the REAL-ID law will cause the immigrants to live in the shadow of society with no way for state or federal governments to track, monitor, or identify them.

The effects of the REAL-ID law are wide-ranging, and refugees or asylum seekers should be aware of the possible effects this law could have on their case. Asylum seekers or refugees should consult with an immigration attorney experienced in representing individuals in asylum cases.