Immigration, Asylum, ICE
For an Immigration court to grant the petition of a claimant filing for relief under the Convention Against Torture or claiming withholding of removal or asylum, it will need several pieces of evidence supporting the claim.
Although a claimant can choose to present just their testimony to the court, petitions are rarely granted on testimonies alone absent other pieces of corroborating evidence.
For a claim for CAT (Convention Against Torture), withholding of removal, or asylum to have a better chance of success, claimants must provide several pieces of evidence to the court.
First, the claimant must provide a credible and detailed testimony to the court of the persecution they have personally experienced in their home country. This persecution can take the form of actual physical or psychological injury or threats of such harm.
Claimants should also put together documentary evidence showing their membership in a persecuted group, proof of actual or threatened physical or emotional harm they may have suffered because of persecution and any evidence tending to show that they face serious threats should their return to their home country.
Claimants should also present a ‘country report’ from the United Nations which describes the political and social tensions or pressures within a country that leads to internal turmoil and persecution of identifiable groups within that country.
These documents can contain the recorded statements of people who have direct personal knowledge of the threats to and actual harm suffered by the claimant.
In addition to the above, a court can also rely on the testimony of an immigration expert witness to provide both context and supporting evidence for the materials provided by the claimant.
Immigration expert witnesses testify to three key points:
The social, political, and economic state of the country the claimant comes from and how these support and motivate a climate of prosecution for the ‘protected class’ the claimant belongs to. These protected classes range from members of religious and racial minorities and members of specific social groups like LGBTQ+ sexual minorities. Asylum and CAT protection also extend to those who have opposing political opinions.
Expert witnesses can offer key information to the court regarding the existence of bias or prejudice against the group the claimant is a member of. In the case of political dissidents, the expert’s opinion can draw similarities between the claimant’s testimony or personal situation and known documented cases of state or third-party persecution. Third-party persecution takes place when a country’s military, police, or court system won’t protect dissidents or members of persecuted groups from threats or actual harm inflicted by non-state actors.
The likely motivation of persecutors in harming or threatening the claimant either directly or through failure to provide protection to the class of people the claimant belongs to.
The likelihood of the claimant being tortured or persecuted if they are forced to return or are brought back their country of origin.
Just how important is the opinion of an immigration expert witness?
While the expert opinion of an expert witness in an Asylum, CAT, and withholding of removal claim doesn’t automatically guarantee the success of the claim, the opinion provides valuable context and detailed information that will enable the court to ‘connect the dots’ and ‘see The Big Picture.’
This testimony can be especially helpful in situations where the claimant is not directly threatened by ‘state actors’ (or direct government personnel like military or police) but criminal elements that may have corrupt links to the police or military. These connections can lead to ‘third parties’ (criminal cartels, for example) being able to carry out its threats against members of protected classes because of state inaction or even withdrawal of state protection. This type of claim requires a deep level of expertise and familiarity with specific countries’ legal, military, social, religious, and governmental systems.
With the help of the right immigration expert witness’ opinion, a court is more likely to frame a claimant’s petition for relief within the broader context of political, social, and systematic persecution and tension happening within a nation-even one that is far away and relatively little known in the United States.
A little bit of context helps a lot when painting a more convincing picture to the court of the likelihood the claimant faces a real threat of harm should they be returned or forced to go back to their country of origin.
What to look for when hiring an immigration expert witness
Enter the name of the expert witness you’re thinking of hiring into Westlaw or Lexis/Nexis. The names of experienced experts will easily return many results. Click through the results to see the disposition of the cases they provided expert opinions in.
Only hire immigration expert witnesses who have a tried and proven track record of success. Their record should speak for the convincing power of their expert opinion. But don’t stop there.
Check to see if which countries are involved in their past opinions. Is the expert knowledgeable about your country of origin’s political or economic conditions as well as its state of government? Make sure to pick an expert who has helped in successful claims involving your country.
The bottom line: You need the right immigration expert witness to boost your claim’s chances
To be clear: CAT, Asylum, and withholding of removal claims can be very tricky. Simply coming from a country that’s facing internal strife, economic collapse, and social disorder is not enough. Immigration courts will only prevent your forced return to your country if you can prove that you’re a member of a ‘protected class’ (under US law) who faces a high likelihood of persecution. While your personal testimony may be moving, to increase your claim’s chances of success you will need the right documentary evidence.
You can also benefit tremendously from the knowledgeable testimony of an experienced immigration expert witness. This specialist expert’s opinion can pull together the otherwise broad and amorphous social, political, historical, and religious tensions of your country of origin into a context the court can understand as leading to a reasonable, credible threat of persecution you can directly experience should you be returned to your country of origin.