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Fourth Circuit Reverses BIA In An Asylum Case, Even Though Applicant Was Not Credible

by David Cleveland, Esq.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has never granted asylum to an applicant, to my knowledge. Nor, in the last six years, has it ever reversed and remanded an asylum case. That is, until August 6, 2004, when the Court issued Camara v. Ashcroft 378 F.3d 361 (4th Cir. 2004).

Immigration Court Proceedings

Ms. Camara, from the country of Guinea, testified she was an active member of an opposition political party [the RPG], and that she was beaten, raped, and imprisoned for 11 months.

In her I-589, Camara stated she had no children, and that she suffered a miscarriage in the year 1996. In court, she testified she actually had two children, and that her miscarriage was in 1999.

Camara testified that after she escaped from prison, she entered a courthouse and obtained papers about herself. Camara presented several documents to the IJ: 1] a membership card for the RPG, and a letter from the current leader of the RPG, which stated that Camara had been arrested for her political activities; 2] two arrest warrants; 3] a "Notice of Escape;" 4] Department of State reports, which stated that dissidents in Guinea are killed, imprisoned, and tortured in prison.

The IJ stated that the inconsistencies about the number of children and the date of the miscarriage were serious. The IJ was suspicious about the documents, stating, "It simply makes no sense to this Court that someone who had just escaped from prison would then present themselves to a dictatorial Governmental legal institution."

The IJ found it "curious" that the Notice of Escape stated that she was "condemned" on January 5 by the Court of Justice, while Camara testified that she was never brought before a justice.

The IJ denied asylum, finding "a series of inconsistencies and improbabilities," which gave the IJ "serious concerns about the respondent's credibility." The BIA affirmed without opinion.

Rulings Of The Fourth Circuit

  1. The Fourth Circuit found that there was substantial evidence on which the IJ could support her adverse credibility determination. However, the Fourth Circuit still reversed and remanded, making the following rulings:
  2. The inconsistencies about the number of children and the year of the miscarriage do constitute "substantial evidence" to support an adverse credibility determination.
  3. However, entering a courthouse in Guinea as an anonymous visitor, and getting documents is not implausible. "IJ's disbelief of Camara's explanation for obtaining her criminal papers was based only on speculation…"
  4. Referring to the Notice of Escape, the Court found that an accused criminal being condemned without a hearing before a judge is not implausible. "…the IJ's assumption about the Guinean justice system… was unsupported and therefore does not support an adverse credibility determination." The Notice of Escape "demonstrated that Camara had been imprisoned, which indisputably can constitute persecution. See Capric v. Ashcroft, 355 F.3d 1075, 1084 (7th Cir. 2004)." (emphasis added).
  5. The IJ was suspicious about the documents. "This would appear, however, to be mere speculation. There was no evidence in the record contradicting Camara's account..."
  6. A determination "that the applicant's testimony is not credible will generally defeat the claim [however] in this case, quite apart from Camara's somewhat discredited testimony, Camara presented independent evidence which the IJ did not discredit, demonstrating Camara suffered past persecution for her political beliefs."
  7. "The IJ completely ignored this evidence..." Therefore, the case was remanded.


This case stands for these propositions:

  1. An IJ must rule upon all of the evidence. Camara presented several documents; the IJ apparently did not even mention, let alone discredit, most of them. The failure of an IJ to comment upon several documents is reversible error.

  2. An IJ may not speculate about evidence. To reject evidence, there must be evidence of record, or a specific, cogent reason for rejection.

  3. An applicant for asylum could be credible on some issues, and not credible on others. An applicant who is not credible on some issues can still be granted asylum.

About The Author

David L. Cleveland, Esq., a staff attorney at Catholic Charities of Washington DC, is a graduate of the University of Rochester and Case Western Reserve School of Law. He is the Chair of the AILA Asylum Committee.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.