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Lawyers, paralegals allegedly falsified asylum claims

Not everyone in Lancaster County had the luxury of immigrating through the normal family-based or employment-based systems. For some people, they left their families, friends and lives in a desperate attempt to get to safety. Whether they were prosecuted because of religion, race, ethnic identity, political beliefs or membership to some other kind of social group, people seeking asylum in Pennsylvania are doing so as a last resort. If they could, they would not have left their home countries.

Because of the extreme circumstances which led people seeking asylum from their homes, it is very important that they can accurately articulate the reasons why they need to remain in the United States and why being sent back to their home countries would be dangerous. Relying on lawyers and other legal professionals for help, they are willing to work hard to stay in a safe country. Sadly, some lawyers will take advantage of immigrants and people seeking asylum, which can be quite dangerous for immigrants.

After a raid late last month, the FBI arrested many people for falsifying individuals' asylum claims. Of the 26 people arrested, at least 6 were lawyers, and many others were involved with the immigration process. Federal officials are claiming that the individuals had been encouraging their clients to lie about persecution in order to successfully apply for asylum, violating federal immigration law.

What this investigation has not yet looked into is whether any of the asylum seekers faced some other kinds of persecution that they did not mention when they recited the fabricated stories. Just because they followed their attorneys' instructions does not mean that they shouldn't have received asylum; it is entirely possible that attorneys created stories they knew would be sufficient for asylum instead of risking a story that may or may not have been enough to win.

It is likely that these lawyers and immigration professionals may have made it much harder for individuals to apply for asylum following their alleged fraud. Now, immigration officials may be overly critical of stories that are not crystal clear.

Source: New York Times, "Law Firms Are Accused of Aiding Chinese Immigrants' False Asylum Claims," Joseph Goldstein and Kirk Semple, Dec. 18, 2012

Visit our Lancaster asylum website to find out more about applying for asylum in the United States.

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