People For the American Way

Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears: Trump Circuit Judge Dissents from Decision to Reverse the Denial of an Individual’s Asylum Claim

News and Analysis
Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears: Trump Circuit Judge Dissents from Decision to Reverse the Denial of an Individual’s Asylum Claim

“Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties.

In May 2019 Trump Ninth Circuit judge Ryan Nelson disagreed with the majority in a 2-1 decision reversing a denial of an asylum claim based on irrelevant inconsistencies in the individual’s statements. The case is Amar Jit v. William Barr.

Jit, an elderly man from a rural town in India, sought asylum in the United States. He alleged that he was unable to practice his religion in India and was beaten and arrested by police because of his religion.

After suffering his injuries, Jit went to see his family doctor, who was also a pediatrician and owner of the hospital in Jit’s town. In his written statement, Jit indicated that when the police took him to jail for interrogation, they accused him of having ties to a militant group.

Due to inconsistencies between Jit’s oral testimony and his written statement, the immigration judge denied Jit’s asylum claim. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) agreed and also denied his asylum claim as not credible.

Immigration officials gave three reasons for not giving credence to Jit’s claims. First, the BIA questioned why an elderly person would see a pediatrician. Second, they found an inconsistency between Jit’s written statement and his oral testimony, during which he said that the police did not specify the group with which he was accused of having ties. Third, Jit did not include in his written statement that he went to live with relatives several miles away.

The Ninth Circuit majority disagreed with the BIA’s determination and reversed the BIA’s denial of asylum. It concluded that the reasons for denial of asylum must consist of inconsistencies that are more substantive than the trivial, like those in Jit’s case, that under the totality of the circumstances have no bearing on an individual’s veracity. The BIA’s determination must be supported by reasonable and substantial evidence and was not in this case.

But Judge Nelson dissented and would have deferred to the BIA. Especially as Trump’s attacks on asylum seekers and other immigrants continue to escalate, it is imperative that every individual seeking sanctuary in our nation has their case considered fairly under the law rather than arbitrarily denied for reasons that are not legitimate.