Saturday, July 10, 2004

No Asylum for Gay Lebanese Man

A 1998 advisory opinion issued by the State Department that found that “prohibitions on homosexual behavior went unenforced” in Lebanon helped to sink an asylum petition by Mohamad Abdul-Karim, a gay Lebanese man hoping to stay in the U.S. Abdul-Karim’s application for asylum was denied by the Board of Immigration, a ruling now affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The unsigned opinion for the three-judge panel did not specify how the Lebanese man came to be in the U.S.

In his original asylum hearing, Abdul-Karim testified about former classmates in Lebanon being arrested for sodomy, and produced home-made translations of undated, but apparently old, newspaper clippings to support his contention that he had a reasonable fear of persecution if he were required to return. But the board concluded that this evidence, much of it second-hand and unverifiable, was not sufficient to overcome the 1998 finding by the State Department survey.

The court’s discussion of Abdul-Karim’s evidence suggests the possibility that better informed representation might have produced a more favorable result. For example, the newspaper clippings he submitted were undated and there was no certification as to the reliability of the translations. The court noted that under federal regulations, any foreign-language material submitted as evidence in an immigration hearing is supposed to consist of a “full English translation which the translator has certified as complete and accurate, and by the translator’s certification that he or she is competent to translate from the foreign language into English.”


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