A recent BIA decision addresses the issue of firm resettlement. See Matter D-X- & Y-Z-, 25 I&N Dec. 664 (BIA 2012). If an alien is firmly resettled in a third country, she is not eligible for political asylum in the United States.
Last year, in a case called Matter of A-G-G-, 25 I&N Dec. 486, 488 (BIA 2011), the Board set forth a framework for determining whether an alien is firmly resettled and thus barred from obtaining asylum. First, DHS bears the burden of presenting prima facie evidence, such as a passport or other travel document, of an offer of firm resettlement. The asylum applicant can then rebut DHS’s prima facie evidence by showing that the offer has not, in fact, been made, that he would not qualify for it or that an exception to firm resettlement applies. One exception is that the applicant’s entry into the country “was a necessary consequence of his or her flight from persecution, that he or she remained in that country only as long as was necessary to arrange onward travel, and that he or she did not establish significant ties in that country.” See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.15(a).
A frequent diner card from the Belize City Johnny Rockets may constitute prima facia evidence of firm resettlement.
In Matter of D-X- & Y-Z-, a Chinese asylum seeker went to Belize where she fraudulently obtained a residence permit. She then continued her journey to the United States and filed for asylum. Despite the Belize residency permit, the Immigration Judge found that the alien was not firmly resettled because she remained in Belize “only as long as was necessary to arrange onward travel” and she “did not establish significant ties in that country.” The IJ granted asylum.
The BIA reversed, holding that, “Even if the respondents used some form of fraud or bribery through a middleman to obtain [the residency permit], there has been no showing that they were not issued by the Belize Government.” The Board also noted, “aliens who have obtained an immigration status by fraud should not be permitted to disavow that status in order to establish eligibility for another type of relief.” The BIA concluded that the alien’s “claim of fraud in obtaining permits to reside in Belize does not rebut the DHS’s prima facie evidence of firm resettlement in that country [i.e., the fact that she held a Belize residency permit].”
This decision is problematic because it is common for aliens to obtain false documents from countries that will not protect them while they are en route to the United States. For example, I have represented a number of East African clients who fraudulently obtained South African passports. These people have no permission to remain in South Africa, and if that government discovered their fraud, they would be deported to the country where they face persecution. Thus, any “status” they may have in South Africa is tenuous at best.
Perhaps the alien in Matter of D-X- & Y-Z-, should have done a better job obtaining evidence to rebut the presumption of firm resettlement in Belize. For the rest of us, the case is a cautionary tale–if a client has used a fraudulently obtained documents from a third country, she had better obtain evidence demonstrating that she is not firmly resettled in that country.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.