Defending Refugees: A Case for Protective Procedural Safeguards in the Persecutor Bar Analysis
Written By: Charles Shane Ellison
For refugees and asylum seekers, application of the so-called persecutor bar is tantamount to a death sentence. However, the Board of Immigration Appeals—without any real deliberation—has arrived at an interpretation of a generic-relief, burden-shifting regulation to allow for application of the persecutor bar based upon very little evidence. Even mere membership in a group with a poor human rights record has been held sufficient to switch the burden of proof and apply the bar. While the recent holding of Matter of Negusie, 27 I&N Dec. 347 (June 28, 2018) can be read and understood largely as a victory for refugees on the question of the duress defense to the bar, that decision is under review by the AG. Additionally, more work is needed to solidify capacious procedural safeguards in the application of the bar ab initio before adjudicators even reach questions of duress. Safeguards are crucial because the current procedures allow adjudicators to apply the bar merely where there is possible assistance in persecution. Given the dearth of past scholarly attention devoted to procedural application of the persecutor bar, this article aims to contribute to this nascent, timely, and largely-untouched discussion. I argue here that it is only where the record contains a preponderance of the evidence to allow an adjudicator to find actual assistance in persecution—and the applicant is given fair notice and opportunity to respond—that the statute, case law, and inter-national law allow the persecutor bar to be applied.
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