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Lying on an Asylum Application is a Really Bad Idea

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

You know that saying, "Go big, or go home"? The inverse is true when it comes to application asylums.

If the feds bust an alien telling big lies on an asylum application, there's a good chance the alien will be going home.

This week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a removal ruling based on an asylum applicants’ admittedly fabricated persecution claims.

Pavel Pavlov, a citizen of Bulgaria, entered the United States in 2000 on a nonimmigrant visa. He didn’t leave when it expired. In 2006, Pavlov filed an application for asylum. The application was “false in almost every particular,” starting with his assertion that he had entered the United States in 2005. (Pavlov was trying to trick the agency into believing that the application was timely, because aliens only have one year after entry to request asylum.

Pavlov asserted that he had been persecuted in Bulgaria because he is a gypsy. He swore that multiple attacks had broken his ribs and collarbone and knocked out two of his teeth and that he was “running out of body parts that have not been touched by the hatred and the violence.”

His claims were almost poetic. They were also lies.

Pavlov eventually withdrew his application, admitting that he wasn’t a persecuted Bulgarian gypsy.

The problem with a little white lie about persecution among friends to immigration officials is that, under 8 U.S.C. §1158, an alien who knowingly makes a frivolous application for asylum becomes permanently ineligible for any benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

After clearing his conscience, Pavlov was deemed removable.

The government doesn’t just haphazardly withhold immigration benefits. When an alien files an application for asylum, the Attorney General must advise the alien that he can be represented by counsel and of the consequences of knowingly filing a frivolous application for asylum. The applicant also receives a list of pro bono attorneys who are available to represent aliens in asylum proceedings.

Pavlov admitted that his application was frivolous, but he claims there were two flaws in the removal determination.

First, Pavlov argued that he never actually asked an immigration judge for asylum, so he wasn’t removable. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that Pavlov’s interpretation of the law was just plain wrong, noting that §1158(d)(6) provides adverse consequences for knowingly making a frivolous asylum application, not for lying to an IJ about the application.

Pavlov then claimed that the government didn’t meet the notice requirement in his case because the IJ had not personally explained the consequences of a frivolous application. Again, the Seventh Circuit was unpersuaded, finding that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acted as the Attorney General’s surrogate, and twice gave notice to Pavlov regarding the consequences of a frivolous application.

The Seventh Circuit is not impressed by immigration loophole arguments, so strongly discourage your clients from lying about grounds for asylum.

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