Barr to Bar Persecutors?

Press Releases

September 29, 2020

IRLI urges Attorney General to deny asylum to coup participant

WASHINGTON—Today the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a brief at the invitation of Attorney General Barr in a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) case the Attorney General has referred to himself. At issue is the BIA’s decision upholding a grant of asylum to a long-time illegal alien from Bangladesh who had participated in a murderous coup d’état in his home country.

In 1975, plotters within the government of Bangladesh raided the home of the ruling Sheik in the middle of the night, murdering him, his wives, and his children. Eventually, those responsible for this atrocity were tried in a Bangladeshi court. By that time, the alien respondent in this case had fled the country, so he was tried and found guilty in absentia.

Years later, at his removal proceeding in the United States, the alien made a claim of asylum, pointing out that he would face punishment for his conviction if he returned to Bangladesh. The immigration judge ruled in favor of the alien. In the government’s appeal, the BIA upheld the immigration judge, on the ground that the alien’s trial and conviction in absentia did not comport with the requirements of due process.

In its brief, IRLI points out that the BIA used the wrong standard. Under the law, aliens are barred from asylum if there is probable cause to believe that they committed persecution or a serious crime in their home country. Probable cause is a much lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and is met by a reasonable belief that a person committed a crime. Here, probable cause was satisfied by the alien’s conviction in Bangladesh at a trial the U.S. State Department considered fair.

“Coup participants who commit serious crimes should not get a free pass, no matter what country they are in, or flee to,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Just punishment for persecution is not itself persecution, and asylum should not be a mechanism for the United States to harbor fugitives from justice in their own countries. These considerations are well-recognized in asylum law, and we hope the Attorney General accordingly will overturn the BIA’s erroneous decision.”

The case is In the Matter of A-M-R-C-, 28 I. & N. Dec. 7 (AG 2020).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • blonergan@irli.org

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