What lessons did you learn attending 2 asylum interviews in 1 day?
Hi I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.
I’ve had a very interesting day this week. I spent the entire day with an asylum officer and 2 of my asylum clients down at the local immigration office. In St. Louis, we don’t have an asylum office, we operate out of the asylum office in Chicago so periodically the asylum office sends officers down to St. Louis to conduct a week’s worth of interviews.
This was very interesting because while my clients have been waiting for more than 2 years for their interviews, we got about 10 days notice of the interview itself. We sort of had to scramble to get our supplemental materials in to file all that on time, and to make sure that the officer had a copy of all the evidence that we wanted to submit in support’s of our client’s claim that they would face persecution if they were forced to return back home.
We had 1 interview at 8:00 and the other one at 12:30. Our office actually had 3 interviews, but I only conducted 2 of them. We learned a lot that day. We learned a lot, we’re always trying to learn and share that information with you, and with our clients to try to help you get the most beneficial results at the asylum office and to get the information that you need so that you can put together the strongest case possible and do a good job at your interview.
What we learned. One thing we learned is that the officers are very well prepared. They’re very well advised and have knowledge of the situation on the ground. Both of my clients happened to be from Iraq on this particular case so the officer had a tremendous amount of information about Iraq and he did not need us to go into any country conditions or anything. That’s very instructive for you if you’re thinking about or preparing for your asylum interview and that is, you need to cut to the chase. You need to get started, you need to tell the officer exactly why you fear persecution if you return back home. He’s not going to want to hear just about country conditions, or she wants to hear about you. About your experience, about what your fears are, about what threats you’ve had, what incidents you’ve had that make you fear going back because the best example, the best way to show future persecution is by showing past persecution.
The officers don’t want to engage in a bunch of small talk. They dive right in. First, they go over the form, the I-589 and they go over the biographic information and then, in both interviews, the officer started off by saying “Why do fear going back to Iraq?” Then just sort of left it open.
Then he asked about prior incidents of persecution or threats or harm or harassment and they spent a lot of time talking back and forth, my client and the officer about that. This particular officer was also a very sensitive fellow, I really liked him a lot. I thought he did a tremendous job and that he was very fair with my clients.
Another thing that we know already but was re-emphasized by going through the interview is that not every question is designed to trick you, or to punish you, or to weaken your case. Sometimes the officers ask neutral questions and sometimes I think they ask questions that are designed to help the client. To help them remember things, to make sure that the officer gets all the information. This particular officer I thought was a very fair arbiter. A very fair judge. A very fair officer in assessing the evidence. He wasn’t trying to trick anybody, he wasn’t unfair I thought. I thought he was very methodical, very matter of fact, very sensitive, there were times in any asylum case where your client is expressing real fear and I think he was very sensitive to that. I think he’d been very well trained. He’d obviously handled a lot of interviews before and I thought he was very thorough.
You need to be ready. You need to be ready for your interview, you need to be able to tell your story, you need to be able to articulate it. With each of our clients, I think we prepped them each 3 times for a couple hours each time to make sure that they were ready. To make sure that they remembered everything. On the back end, at the end of the interview, I in both cases made a statement. In 1, I made sure that my client was mentioning a few of the incidents that he had neglected to mention and which the officer had not followed up on. I wanted to make sure that the officer had a thorough understanding of the facts of the case. In the other one I did make a brief closing statement and I have to tell you, I was touched by what my client said. I think the officer was touched by what my client said. It was very hard to listen to someone express such base fear of going back home. It’s going to be very dangerous for him if he has to.
We’re very hopeful that they both get asylum here in the United State. We’re feeling good about the cases. Obviously we don’t want to jinx it but we thought our clients did a really good job, that we had put together the strongest case possible, that they did a really good job of articulating their positions and I think the officer was able to assess that these are very credible fears. These are 2 men who really fear bringing their family back from the United States to Iraq and we’re hopeful that the interview went well and that eventually the clients will get approved.
The officer made a point to tell everybody before we even started that there would be no decision today, that we would be conducting the interview and it was just one piece of the puzzle, that there were other supervisors and other people that have to weigh in on the asylum claim and that the interview itself was just one small piece of that.
We hope this video enlightened you as to some of the things you need to think about as you go into the asylum interview. It’s obviously very stressful, very important. It’s almost I think, a holy or a sacred event, it’s very surreal. It’s very unusual, it’s not like any other kind of immigration interview. It’s really where someone’s basically pleading for their life to not have to go back home. I think that really come through to the officer so we’re happy about that.
If you have any questions about asylum, if you’re getting ready for your interview, if you need some help, need some pointers, make sure to give us a call at (314) 961-8200. We’d be happy to represent you, to help you file the strongest asylum application possible or to strengthen your case before you go to interview.
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Thanks a lot and have a great day.