Johan Sumolang sought asylum under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and submitted evidence that her infant’s daughter had died due, at least in part, to anti-Chinese and anti-Christian persecution in her native Indonesia. The IJ and BIA denied Sumolang asylum, and the petitioner appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit court ruled that the Board should review their decision with due consideration of the circumstances surrounding the petitioner’s daughter’s death.
In asylum cases, there are many factors that may come into play. As an immigration attorney who has handled quite a few asylum petitions, I have learned that it is extremely important that petitioners provide all the information and evidence that may relate to their case in a timely manner so that their attorney, immigration officials and court officers may fully weigh all factors.
In Sumolang v. Holder, the asylee is an Indonesian of Chinese descent and Christian faith. She attests that both of these factors contributed to her persecution which was evidenced in a lifelong pattern of verbal slurs, sexual harassment and systemic discrimination.
In 1996, Sumolang and her husband, also a Christian, took their ill infant child to a hospital. Upon learning that the parents were Christian, the attending doctor attempted to solicit a bribe, but upon refusal, prolonged their wait contributing to the death of the child.
In 1997 Sumolang and her husband came to the U.S. on tourist visas, and remained due to fears that anti-Chinese violence was imminent in Indonesia. This proved true, when more than a thousand people died due to violence in Indonesia during 1998.
In 2002, Sumolang’s husbnd filed for asylum, followed shortly after by Sumolang. The immigration judge denied their petition, and the Board of Immigration Appeals followed suit. The BIA rejected both petitions because they had filed more than a year after entering the U.S. and could not demonstrate “changed circumstances.”
The Ninth Circuit determined the anti-Chinese violence that erupted following the Sumolangs’ arrival constitutes changed circumstances. The appeals court, however, did not justify the extensive years’ long wait before filing the asylum petition.
On the issue of past persecution, the Ninth Circuit found that the BIA had erred in not considering the circumstances of the daughter’s death. While the BIA did not equate the persecution of a family member as past persecution of an applicant, the Court of Appeals construed the harm done to the petitioner’s child as substantial evidence of persecution. The undisputed circumstances of the child’s death can be attributed to discrimination related to the parent’s ethnicity, religion, social group or political opinion and, therefore, constitutes persecution. The Ninth Circuit ultimately did not support the petition for asylum under CAT, but did remand the case to the BIA so that they could reconsider the request for withholding of removal.
In the many asylum cases I have worked on as an immigration attorney, I have exhorted my clients to provide all the pertinent facts surrounding their request for asylum. While complete honesty is not a promise of success, it is often a pre-requisite.
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