“Ultimately, the BIA accepted one of several arguments we presented. The Board held:
The intent of the firm resettlement bar is to disqualify asylum applicants who have previously found another country of refuge, not another country in which he or she faces a danger of persecution…. Given respondent’s situation with regard to [the third country], we conclude that, even assuming she otherwise would be viewed as having firmly resettled in that country, she is not barred from asylum.
Id. (emphasis in original). Thus, the Board went beyond the analysis of Matter of A-G-G- and looked to the intent of the firm resettlement bar. The intent, the BIA says, was only to bar “aliens who had already found shelter and begun new lives in other countries.” Id. (emphasis in original) (citing Rosenberg v. Yee Chien Woo, 402 U.S. 49, 56 (1971)).
It seems to me that the Board’s emphasis on the intent of the bar is significant. If you only read the firm resettlement bar (INA § 208(b)(1)(B)(2)(vi)) and Matter of A-G-G-, you could reasonably conclude–like the DHS attorney and the IJ in my case–that once a person is firmly resettled, she is forever barred from asylum. But that is not the conclusion the Board has now reached.
I am glad for the result and for my clients, but I am disappointed that the BIA chose not to publish this decision. The issue that my clients faced–where the country of resettlement is unsafe–is not uncommon. A number of my clients have faced similar situations, and I suspect that they are not unique. A published decision would have helped clarify matters and provided better guidance to our country’s Immigration Judges.
Maybe I am asking for too much. Maybe I should just be happy with what we got. Maybe I am being a big jerk for looking this gift horse in the mouth. But I can’t help but think that if the BIA would publish more decisions–especially in cases where there is no existing precedent–our Immigration Court system would be more consistent and more efficient. And so while I am thankful that we received a good decision from the Board in this particular case, I am also thinking about how much more good the Board could do if it made a concerted effort to fulfill its role as “the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws,” and if it would publish more cases.”
I agree, Jason. As you know from our Asylumist interviews last summer, there was a time when the BIA published more cases. It was during the era of the “Schmidt Board.”
Many of the precedents involved controversial issues of first impression under IIRIRA. There was open dialogue with some separate opinions. Sometimes, the dissent better predicted the future development of the law than the majority opinion. Most were en banc, so every Board Appellate Judge had to take a public vote. And, some of them actually granted relief to the respondent.
But those days are long gone. Today’s Board exists 1) to push cases through the system to final orders of removal on more or less of an assembly line, 2) not to rock the boat, 3) to provide OIL with ways to defend the Government’s “party line” under Chevron, and 4) to preserve the institution and the jobs of the Appellate Judges.
You’ll notice that I didn’t mention anything about due process, fairness, best practices, consistency, law development, informative dialogue, justice, or even practicality. And, Jason, let’s face it. Who would want to publish a decision favorable to a respondent with Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions — a guy who basically never has a kind, humane, or generous word to say about any migrant, legal or not — as your boss?
In a functioning system, an appellate court that stood for fairness, due process, and best practices could be part of the solution. But, our current U.S. Immigration Court system is dysfunctional. And, mostly, the Board is just another part of the problem. Basically, if you don’t stand up for anything or anybody, you stand for nothing.