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Seventh Circuit Holds that Country Reports Might Not Be Credible and Should Not Be Used when Ruling on Asylum Applications

In a recently published decision, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals’ reliance on country reports in asylum cases is erroneous when there are reports that contradict the information included in them. In Zheng, an alien was  ordered removed because she allegedly did not prove a fear of persecution if she were removed to the Fugian region in China. She alleged that she was forced by the Chinese government to undergo an abortion when she was a minor. She also alleged that she has two United States citizen children and that she might be persecuted if she were to return to China.

The Immigration Judge denied her application and the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the decision. She filed for review by the Seventh Circuit. The main reason behind the BIA’s decision was a 2007 State Department report alleging that forced abortions were no longer wide-spread in the region. The seventh Circuit recited its previous decisions on the issue and reversed the decision. The court reasoned that it had ruled in one of its prior decisions that this assertion in the country report was not supported by facts since there are several reports that contradict the assertion that forced abortions are no longer wide-spread in the region. Thus, the court granted the petition for review and remanded the case to the BIA. 

This is a very interesting decision since immigration practitioners like myself have been challenging the reliability of State Department country conditions reports on several grounds. One of these arguments is the fact that the information in the reports cannot be authenticated and is sometimes highly unreliable and politicized. This is a win for the little guy.

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