Bassene v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 07-23-2013
  • Case #: 07-75022
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judge Fletcher; and Senior District Judge Piersol
  • Full Text Opinion

An immigration judge may not rely on speculation based on the lack detailed information related to an asylum claim that was provided in a non-asylum proceeding to support an adverse credibility finding especially where the applicant has acted without counsel.

In 1997, Alphonse Charles Bassene (“Bassene”) came from Senegal to the United States on a J-1 cultural exchange visa to study hotel management. Bassene feared going back to Senegal because he had been detained the Senegalese military. He applied for citizenship using an N-400 asylum application and attached a one-page statement describing the political turmoil in near his home. In 2000, the N-400 application was denied. At a hearing on the denial, Bassene met with an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer who informed Bassene that he could apply for asylum using an I-589 application. Bassene’s asylum application included detailed accounts of how his family was forced to join an armed rebel group in Senegal. Bassene was once arrested and beaten by the Senegalese military for his association with this group. In 2006, Bassene appeared before an immigration judge (“IJ”) at his removal hearing and asked for asylum and relief under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The IJ found Bassene was not credible because his N-400 application did include any reference to his detainment by Senegalese military and denied Bassene’s asylum. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) upheld the IJ’s findings. The Ninth Circuit disagreed with the BIA’s review. The panel concluded that the IJ erroneously determined Bassene was not credible based on the N-400 application and pointed out that the N-400 form is not “designed to elicit information on persecution.” The panel held that the IJ could not make an adverse credibility finding based only on the speculation that as “an educated person” Bassene should have known to include more information on his N-400 application. The panel also held that the claimed inconsistency between the two applications is not supported by substantial evidence. PETITION GRANTED; REVERSED and REMANDED.

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