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Ninth Circuit Reverses Adverse Credibility Ruling

In the case of Alphonse Bassene v. Eric Holder, Attorney General, the petitioner was a native of Senegal who sought asylum under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Bassene mistakenly filed an N-400 citizen application form prior to filing the correct I-589 asylum application. On his N-400, he provided less detail about persecution experienced in Senegal as a result of his ethnicity and political beliefs, than he did on his subsequent I-589. The Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals found that Bassene was not credible due to the discrepancy in level of detail and denied his petition. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did not agree with this finding and remanded the case to the BIA.

As an immigration attorney in Austin, I have handled numerous asylum petitions. While the facts of Bassene v. Holder are unique, it is imperative that every asylum petition is accurate and properly managed. It is important to note that in this case, if the proper documentation had been filed, considerable time and effort could have been saved.

Alphonse Bassene is a Diola, an ethnic minority in Senegal. In 1986, his family was forced to provide financial assistance to the Movement of the Democratic Forces of the Casamnace (MFDC), an armed separatist group. In 1992, Bassene was arrested by the Senegalese military, detained and beaten. Bassene has testified that he is concerned if he returns to Senegal, he will be forced to serve in the MFDC.

The petitioner entered the U.S. in 1997 on a cultural exchange visa. After overstaying his visa, he mistakenly filled out an N-400 citizenship application on the advice of a friend. He did not detail his involvement with the MFDC or his arrest on this form, but he did attach a statement explaining his fear of persecution due to political turmoil in his home region.

At a meeting with an Immigration and Naturalization Service official to discuss the denial of his N-400 application, Bassene learned that he should use the I-589 form for asylum petitions. On this form he explicitly detailed his and his family’s interactions with the MFDC and the Senegalese military.

At his hearing before the Immigration Judge, the Department of Homeland Security admitted that Bassene was “very credible.” The IJ, however, felt that the omission of his MFDC interactions and arrest was sufficient to undermine his credibility.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that any omissions on the N-400 form were inconsequential because, that particular form was not pertinent to an asylum proceeding. On the I-589 form, the petitioner provided the required information accurately, which was later supported by court room testimony. This court pointed to differing levels of detail during earlier and later stages of asylum proceedings which do not impinge upon the credibility of the petitioner. The court granted the petition for review and reversed the BIA’s adverse credibility finding.

As an immigration attorney, I am often confronted by the legal necessities specific to various proceedings. Bassene v. Holder is an outstanding example of the necessity for qualified legal counsel who can properly advise clients and file the requisite documentation.

Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC specializes in immigration and family law and has represented numerous clients successfully. To discuss the details of an immigration or family law matter, please call (512) 215-5225.

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