Asylum Request Needs Showing of Systematic Persecution

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on September 28, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Sometimes, credibility of testimony isn't the only bar to a claim of asylum. The history of persecution of a group can be an important factor in determining whether a petition against removal can stand.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals looked at one such asylum case earlier this week and ruled in favor of deportation for a Guatemalan citizen who invoked the Convention Against Torture.

The appellant came to the United States when he was in his teens (back in 1992). At the time, Guatemala had been in the midst of civil war and the appellant feared for his safety if he returned, particularly because of his Mayan heritage.

Nobody in his immediate family, however, had suffered any harm at the hands of the government or the guerilla army.

The threshold showing needed to demonstrate viable case for asylum, however, was status as a “refugee.” At the lower court level, the Immigration Judge failed to find that the appellant had shown he was entitled to refugee status. According to the Immigration Judge, the appellant’s testimony, while credible, failed to show that he had suffered past persecution. Furthermore, the appellant failed to show a well-founded fear of future persecution.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Immigration Judge’s findings that the appellant failed to sufficiently show past persecution. On appeal, however, he attempted to focus on likelihood of future persecution.

The standard for establishing future persecution is to show a “pattern or practice” of persecution of a similarly situated group of persons, on account of one of the five asylum categories.

The terms “pattern or practice” have been defined by the First Circuit as persecution which is systematic or pervasive, as opposed to generalized civil conflict.

While the appellant showed evidence of violence against ethnic Mayans, he failed to show that the violence and persecution was systematic or pervasive.

The First Circuit denied the immigration appeal.

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