National Immigrant Justice Center
208 S. LaSalle St., Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60604
Ninth Circuit Protects Rights of Asylum Seekers Facing One-Year Filing Deadline
June 20, 2011
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center applauds the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Singh v. Holder upholding the rights of men and women who come to the United States seeking protection from persecution.
U.S. immigration laws require individuals seeking protection to apply for asylum within one year of their arrival in the United States. Nirmal Singh appealed the immigration judge’s rejection of his asylum case after the judge found that it was not enough for Mr. Singh to testify as to his date of entry, but that he had to produce documentary corroboration to show when he entered the United States. The Court of Appeals rejected this ruling, permitting greater access to human rights protections for thousands of asylum seekers who commonly flee their countries of origin under precarious circumstances and often are unable to provide documents proving when they entered the United States.
NIJC submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Singh, explaining from the perspective of an asylum seeker the problem of letting immigration judges deny asylum claims because they think an applicant could have produced more evidence. Asylum seekers often obtain evidence only at great risk to themselves or their families, and documenting U.S. entry dates is particularly problematic. In a study released in October 2010, NIJC found that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the highest level of administrative appeal for individuals in immigration proceedings, failed to provide meaningful review of asylum cases that were rejected by immigration judges because of the one-year deadline.
“We hope the court’s decision will encourage the BIA to more closely examine rulings that deny asylum claims based on the one-year deadline,” said NIJC Director of Litigation Chuck Roth. “Every time an asylum claim is wrongly rejected due to a perceived failure to file on time, a person is potentially subject to deportation to face torture or persecution.”
The Court of Appeals decision came just in time for World Refugee Day, which is celebrated annually on June 20 to raise awareness of the obstacles facing more than 11 million refugees worldwide.
Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit www.immigrantjustice.org.