Asylum Based On Political Opinion
Author: USA Asylum Lawyer Alena Shautsova
A person applying for asylum in the US has to present his/her claim based on one of the enumerated grounds. Political opinion is one of them. Many actually refer to asylum benefit in the US as “political asylum.” It is surely one of the most popular grounds, but not the only one.
Typically, when we say “political asylum” a person would associate it with someone who, in their home country, were active in an opposition political party or movement. Or, a person who suffered due to spreading opposition-type views, literature, etc. The law, however, interprets “political opinion” much broader than that. In other words, “[a] political opinion encompasses more than electoral politics or formal political ideology or action.” Ahmed v. Keisler, 504 F.3d 1183, 1192 (9th Cir. 2007).
For example, one court held that when a person opposed the government’s eminent domain attempts over his property and was persecuted because of it, the person established a valid claim for asylum based on political opinion. Song v. Sessions (9th Circuit, 12/18/2017). The person organized protests to oppose the government’s attempts to take over his and his neighbors’ property and not to pay fair market value for it. As a result, the person was arrested, beaten and tortured by the police. The person was accused of anti-government activities. Here where the core of that person’s asylum claim was. “If the persecutor attributed a political opinion to the victim, and acted upon the attribution, this imputed view becomes the applicant’s political opinion as required under the [Immigration and Nationality] Act.” Sangha v. INS, 103 F.3d 1482, 1489 (9th Cir. 1997).
Another example would be a case of a woman who stood up against a dangerous criminal in her country and corrupt system. Antonyan v. Holder (9th Circuit, 6/29/2011). The lady objected to the criminal’s actions and reported him to the authorities. The authorities, that acted in co-huts with the criminal did nothing. But the criminal started to persecute the lady: beat her, threatened her, etc. The lady complained to higher officials, just to find herself in more trouble. Her asylum claim was eventually granted because “whistle-blowing against government corruption is an expression of political opinion.” In determining whether an act of whistle-blowing is political, “ ‘the salient question’ ” is “whether it was ‘directed toward a governing institution, or only against the individuals whose corruption was aberrational.’ ” Hasan v. Ashcroft, 380 F.3d 1114, 1120 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Grava, 205 F.3d at 1181).
As such, political opinion as a ground for asylum in the US may be broader than political opposition activities. If you need a consultation on asylum law, you can book it here.