It's not often that a distinguished asylum lawyer defends a decision to deny asylum, but it happened the other day.
The lawyer is Jason Dzubow, a member of the Washington, D.C. bar, who specializes not just in immigration law, but in the subset of asylum law.
The person denied asylum would normally be viewed with sympathy by the members of the immigration bar – he is Ali Ahmad Asseri, a former Saudi diplomat who turned out to be gay.
When Asseri was denied asylum here in the U.S., the Jerusalem Post announced that the U.S. government had made that decision to please the oil-rich Saudi government.
Not so, said Dzubow; the asylum decision-maker had no choice, because Asseri, before he came to the U.S. as a diplomat, had been an inspector in the public prosecutor's office in Arabia, and one of his responsibilities was to make sure that judicial punishments, such as lashings, were, in fact, carried out.
The U.S. law is quite clear, the attorney wrote: "people who persecute others are barred by statute from obtaining asylum." He continued, saying that the asylum system did exactly what it was supposed to do, deny asylum to Asseri, without any input from the White House or the State Department.
Dzubow then went into one of the many intricacies of the immigration law, pointing out that Asseri "is possibly eligible for Withholding of Removal and he is certainly eligible for relief under the UN Convention Against Torture (Saudi Arabia is known to torture and kill gay people.)" He pointed out, however, that the Asylum Office of USCIS cannot make decisions based on either of those grounds, something that only can be done by an immigration judge.
The lawyer charges the Jerusalem Post with "shoddy journalism" for failing to "Research the asylum law, which clearly indicates that a persecutor is not entitled to asylum."
He also faulted the paper for failing to be precise about what unit of government had denied the asylum petition, though he suspected it happened at the staff level within USCIS.
All in all, a refreshing column!