By SAM DOLNICK
The man caught on the wiretap urged his immigrant client to fabricate a tragic past if he wanted asylum in the United States. To say that he was a victim of political repression in Albania. Or police brutality. Or even a blood feud.
"Maybe you had to leave because someone threatened to kill you," the man suggested. "Because of something that your father did to somebody else or something to do with the land. You understand? That can be a way to get asylum."It`s easier to get let into the U.S. legally if you or your loved ones have done something back home that makes your fellow countrymen want to kill you. Emphasize to the U.S. government official how much you are loathed by many of the people who have gotten to know you. What could be better for the citizens of the United States than to import people involved in blood feuds in Albania? If you are some Albanian who minds his own business and stays away from crime and murder, well, good luck in Senator Kennedy`s diversity lottery. But, if you are some Albanian that other Albanians want to kill, well, come on over!
Often enough, it is. A shadowy industry dedicated to asylum fraud thrives in New York, where many of the country`s asylum claims are filed. Immigrants peddle personal accounts ripped from international headlines, con artists prey on the newly arrived and nonlawyers offer misguided advice.Ah, the poor passive victim immigrants, getting preyed on by nonlawyers who offer misguided advice on how to con the system so that they get asylum.
The revelation that the West African hotel housekeeper who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault apparently lied on her asylum application has focused new attention on the use of these schemes.
The embellished stories go in and out of fashion along with the news of the day, reflecting turmoil in nations around the globe, lawyers say.
West Africans claim genital mutilation or harm from the latest political violence. Albanians and immigrants from other Balkan countries claim they fear ethnic cleansing. Chinese invoke the one-child policy or persecution of Christians, Venezuelans cite their opposition to the ruling party, and Russians describe attacks against gay people.Oh, for heaven`s sake, can`t gay people in Russia go to Google and type in the Russian equivalent of "gay Russia"? In English, I get:
About 102,000,000 resultsÂ (0.14 seconds)Dear Russian gays: Go look up a gay neighborhood in Moscow or St. Petersburg and move there.
Of course, thousands of those claims are legitimate. But each cataclysm provides convenient cover stories for immigrants desperate to settle here for other reasons, forcing authorities to make high-stakes decisions based on the "demeanor, candor or responsiveness" of the applicant.In other words, the asylum process selects for people with con-man skills.
...Â Amadou Diallo, the street vendor from Guinea who was shot 41 times by New York police officers in 1999, came from a well-off, stable family. But he told immigration authorities that he was from nearby Mauritania, and that his parents had been killed in that country`s conflict.How closely related were Amadou Diallo, whose relatives won a $3 million settlement from the NYPD and whose relatives to the U.S. was sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel, and DSK`s accuser,Â Nafissatou Diallo? How closely related were either to Cellou Dalein Diallo, who was prime minister of Guinea from 2004 to 2006? (It`s a common name.)
It was not true, but he was granted asylum. The scheme was revealed after his death.
Every immigrant neighborhood has businesses that guide newcomers - many of them here illegally - through the complicated process of gaining legal status. Sometimes that means claiming asylum in immigration court, one of several ways to receive it. ...
"Often, the applicant is misled by various actors with a story that is much more compelling," said Claudia Slovinksy, a longtime immigration lawyer. "Weren`t they soldiers? Wasn`t it a gang rape?"More passive voice ...
Whether here legally or illegally, immigrants can apply for asylum within one year of arriving. To qualify, they must show a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group - which could cover gays or abused women.How about nerds and geeks? If you are some foreigner who got bullied in fourth grade by the big boys, doesn`t that grant you a right to live in America forever? Why the discrimination against the neurodiverse?
Immigration courts across the country granted 51 percent of asylum claims last year, government statistics show. Such courts in New York City, which heard more cases than in any other city, approved 76 percent, among the highest rate in the nation.
Because many claims are based on events that occurred in countries in disarray, with evidence hard to collect, judges have to make decisions based on intuition.
"A true refugee does not have a note from their dictator," said Judge Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, paraphrasing a legal aphorism.Â She said many judges erred on the side of caution. "The mistake of granting a fraudulent asylum case is far less disastrous than denying a genuine one," she said.Huh? Have you thought about that for more than 3 seconds, Judge Marks. For example, letting Ms. Diallo stay in America has led to America being humiliated in the eyes of France and the world.
The Manhattan lawyer peddling Albanian blood feuds, James Christo, who was caught on a wiretap, is one of the few people who have been prosecuted recently for helping immigrants commit fraud.The real crimes are A) Few have been prosecuted; B) Claiming to be involved in an Albanian blood feud is seen as a plus by our immigration bureaucrats.