Overseas Persecution of Mormons: A Comparative Analysis

Jeff Breinholt Mormon 10 Comments

We know that the LDS Church has projected itself around the world through its missionary efforts. This has occurred during a time when U.S. immigration law was becoming more refugee-friendly. Perhaps it is inevitable that we would start to see cases where individual Mormons seek asylum here in the United States, based on fear of persecution in their home countries. How do these LDS asylum cases compare with asylum cases involving churches with which Mormons are commonly confused – the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Christian Scientists?

The U.S. Asylum System

Prior to 1980, the Attorney General had authority to authorize the withholding of deportation for an alien who feared physical persecution in the home country, and there was little right to appeal adverse decision in court. The legal concept of asylum was based on a 1951 U.N. Convention, which led the U.S. to amend its immigration laws to protect refugees. Starting in 1965, the U.S. recognized refugees only from communist countries or countries “in the general area of the Middle East,” and these claims were the subject of strict numerical limitations. The 1980 Refugee Act adopted the definition of refugees from a 1967 U.N. Protocol, removed the ideological considerations and numerical limitations, and provided appeal of adverse decision to the U.S. Courts of Appeal. As a result, asylum was no longer an ad hoc immigration procedure subject to the whims of policy, and Executive Branch asylum discretion was overseen by the judiciary.

Under current U.S. immigration law, asylum claims are first considered by an immigration judge. If the claim is rejected the alien ordered deported, the alien may appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). If the BIA denies the claim, the alien may appeal directly to the federal circuit courts of appeal. It has been this way since 1980.

How did these changes in immigration law impact the cases that we heard by the U.S. courts? The following graph shows the number of asylum decisions issued by the U.S. Courts of Appeal between 1969 and 1980, when the Refugee Act was enacted. (These figures were obtained through a computer search I did of all federal opinions containing the keyword “asylum” within two words of “refugee”).

Asylum1

This next graph shows the number of asylum opinions issued between 1981 and 2000:

Asylum2

The second of these graphs undoubtedly shows the impact of the Refugee Act – asylum claimants began to seek review of the BIA’s denial before the U.S. appellate courts. This does not mean that the number of asylum claims necessarily increased. Rather, it reflects that the circuit courts heard the claims, because the law provided for judicial review that did not exist before 1980. The growth of opinions issued in the late-1990s probably reflected additional resources that were given to the asylum process to address the backlog of cases.

This third graphs shows something that is no so easily explainable – the stunning growth of asylum court rulings in the first six years of the 20th Century.

Asylum3

It is important to note how large of a jump there was between 2000 (71 judicial opinions) and 2001 (218), and the continuing exponential growth thereafter. To put this in perspective, the sum of the number of asylum decisions issued in 2005 (1965 opinions) and 2006 (2701) exceed the total number of asylum cases for all prior years in history combined. The following graph illustrates this. It depicts of the number of asylum decisions issued by the U.S. Courts of Appeal between 1969 and 2006, drawn to scale:

asylum4

Clearly, something is going on here. Asylum has become a growth industry, mainly since 2000.

Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-Day Adventists

I counted a total of 160 opinions involving asylum claims by foreign Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, dating back to the first two in 1990. From that year to the present (September 2009), the following chart depicts the growth in these cases, by year, and how they follow the increased trend in asylum cases generally:

asylum6

Amazingly, the Christian Scientists quickly dropped out of the deeper analysis, since there was only one case involving an asylum claimant from that faith, with the court affirming the BIA’s denial.[1] This left 159 asylum cases involving Mormons (26 opinions),[2] Seventh-Day Adventists (34 opinions),[3] and Jehovah’s Witnesses (98 opinions).[4]

Overall, across these three religions, the success rate for asylum claims reaching the U.S. Courts of Appeal is 21 percent (33 wins out of 160 cases). Mormon claimants won five (5) times, for a success rate of 19 percent.[5] For Adventists, the success rate was eight (8) percent (three for 34).[6] Meanwhile, the Jehovah’s Witnesses prevailed 25 times out of 98 opinions, for a success rate of roughly 26 percent. [7]

What accounts for the higher frequency of Jehovah’s Witnesses seeking and winning asylum? Part of it has to do with its faithful’s refusal to be part of any organized military, which makes mandatory conscription in any country a form of actionable persecution. Another factor might be where these cases are brought. Of the various circuit courts of appeal, the Tenth Circuit (where Utah is located) granted relief to only five percent of claimants from these four faiths. In contrast, the Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) granted relief in 33 percent, the Second Circuit (New York, Connecticut) granted 29 percent, and the Ninth Circuit (California, Arizona, Idaho and other Pacific states) also granted in 29 percent of the cases. The lesson here might be simple: Mormon aliens should file asylum claims in Idaho, California or Arizona or anywhere else in the 9th Circuit, rather than in Utah.

What are the worst places to be a member of these religions? In terms of asylum claims, the most common countries members of these faiths feared being sent home to were Armenia (27 opinions, most involving Jehovah’s Witnesses)[8] and Indonesia (24 opinions, most involving Adventists),[9] followed by Eritrea (15), Russia (12), Romania (9) and China (8). In terms of highest percentage of claimants winning in the courts, war-torn Eritrea had the highest percentage (six of the 15 claims), all of whom were Jehovah’s Witnesses.[10]

What about the Mormons? China [11] and Russia [12] (three cases each) appear to be the places from which the most fearful Mormons hail, although asylum petitions were granted to alien LDS members from Colombia,[13] Iran,[14] Ethiopia,[15] Russia [16] and Ukraine.[17]

What is the take-away of this analysis? For one, it cannot be said that Mormons are more persecuted overseas than other American religions like the Jehovah’s Witnesses (ironic, given that the Witnesses’ missionary efforts are rarely touted).  Mormons seem about as persecuted overseas as Adventists, though they are more successful at proving their case in court. Compared with Jehovah’ Witnesses, Mormons living in foreign countries are not persecuted nearly as much.

Still, reading these cases – even those where asylum is ultimately not granted – can be a heartbreaking experience, no matter the minority religion and no matter the country. Man-made tragedy abounds.

Maybe there is hope that these cases will slow to a trickle, after all the growth we have seen since the start of the 20th Century. As of this writing (three quarters of the way through 2009), the total number of asylum decisions involving these American religions totaled only six, compared with four times that many in 2008. Here is a chart showing the trajectory of Mormon asylum opinions over time:

asylum7

There has not yet been a single asylum case involving a Mormon issued this year. Perhaps if fewer foreign Mormons are feeling persecuted, it might be the start of a trend, and mean that the spike between 2004 and 2007 might have been a storm that has passed. We can only hope.

________________

[1] Ngure v. Ashcroft, 367 F.3d 975 (8th Cir. 2004)(feared persecution in Kenya)

[2] The Mormon asylum cases, in chronological order, are: Shirazi-Parsa v. I.N.S., 14 F.3d 1424 (9th Cir. 1994); Refahiyat v. U.S. Dept. of Justice I.N.S., 29 F.3d 553 (10th Cir. 1994); Oloson v. I.N.S., 51 F.3d 1045 (5th Cir. 1995); Narvaez-Diaz v. I.N.S., 97 F.3d 1460 (9th Cir. 1996); Vorobieva v. I.N.S., 172 F.3d 64 (10th Cir. 1999); Yunus v. I.N.S., 176 F.3d 490 (10th Cir. 1999); Avetova-Elisseva v. I.N.S., 213 F.3d 1192 (9th Cir. 2000); Mendoza v. I.N.S., 28 Fed.Appx. 586 (8th Cir. 2002); Davila v. Ashcroft, 33 Fed.Appx. 703 (5th Cir. 2002); Igoshin v. I.N.S., 50 Fed.Appx. 905 (10th Cir. 2002); Villeda v. Ashcroft, 89 Fed.Appx. 636 (9th Cir. 2004); Rodriguez-Pozos v. Ashcroft, 109 Fed.Appx. 906 (9th Cir. 2004); Ashmawy v. Gonzales, 130 Fed.Appx. 71 (8th Cir. 2005); Koval v. Gonzales, 418 F.3d 798 (7th Cir. 2005); Pogai v. Gonzales, 160 Fed.Appx. 564 (9th Cir. 2005); De Maerschalck v. Gonzales, 159 Fed.Appx. 29 (10th Cir. 2005); Otero v. Gonzales,164 Fed.Appx. 732 (10th Cir. 2006); Yan v. Gonzales, 438 F.3d 1249 (10th Cir. 2006); Brown v. Gonzales, 174 Fed.Appx. 710 (3rd Cir. 2006); Gomez v. Gonzales, 179 Fed.Appx. 220 (5th Cir. 2006); Morales v. Gonzales, 188 Fed.Appx. 780 (10th Cir. 2006); Wang v. Gonzales, 207 Fed.Appx. 130 (2nd Cir. 2006); Liang Wen v. Gonzales, 223 Fed.Appx. 674 (9th Cir. 2007); Hadera v. Gonzales, 494 F.3d 1154(9th Cir. 2007); Simonchyk v. Keisler, 251 Fed.Appx. 730 (2nd Cir. 2007); Dan Zhu Wong v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Sec., 271 Fed.Appx. 77 (2nd Cir. 2008); and Malkandi v. Mukasey, 544 F.3d 1029 (9th Cir. 2008).

[3] The Adventist asylum cases, in chronological order, are: Gebremichael v. I.N.S.,10 F.3d 28 (1st Cir. 1993); Magdici v. I.N.S.,29 F.3d 119 (7th Cir. 1997); Sahensolar v. I.N.S., 168 F.3d 501 (9th Cir. 1998); Sofinet v. I.N.S., 196 F.3d 742 (7th Cir. 1999); Tsoy v. Ashcroft, 83 Fed.Appx. 982 (9th Cir. 2003); Asatryan v. Ashcroft, 99 Fed.Appx. 768 (9th Cir. 2004); Khup v. Ashcroft, 376 F.3d 898 (9th Cir. 2004); Kondakova v. Ashcroft, 383 F.3d 792 (8th Cir. 2004); Setyawan v. Ashcroft, 111 Fed.Appx. 579 (10th Cir. 2004); Silitonga v. Gonzales, 160 Fed.Appx. 782 (10th Cir. 2005); Fantaye v. Gonzales, 161 Fed.Appx. 681 (9th Cir. 2006); Nazarian v. Gonzales, 171 Fed.Appx. 78 (9th Cir. 2006); Peter v. Gonzales, 183 Fed.Appx. 805 (10th Cir. 2006); Poerwantini v. Gonzales, 217 Fed.Appx. 592 (8th Cir. 2007); Tretiakova v. Gonzales, 221 Fed.Appx. 639 (9th Cir. 2007); Floroiu v. Gonzales, 481 F.3d 970 (7th Cir. 2007); Panjaitan v. Gonzales, 224 Fed.Appx. 853 (10th Cir. 2007); Lumbangaol v. Keisler, 258 Fed.Appx. 167 (10th Cir. 2007); Gill v. Attorney General of U.S., 258 Fed.Appx. 460 (3rd Cir. 2007); Sibuea v. Mukasey, 260 Fed.Appx. 43 (10th Cir. 2007); Rotinsulu v. Mukasey, 515 F.3d 68 (1st Cir. 2008); Sitompul v. Mukasey, 272 Fed.Appx. 696 (10th Cir. 2008); Harahap v. Attorney General of U.S., 275 Fed.Appx. 95 (3rd Cir. 2008); Esfandiary v. Mukasey, 277 Fed.Appx. 816 (10th Cir. 2008); Liem v. Attorney General of U.S., 280 Fed.Appx. 206 (3rd Cir. 2008); Zakarias v. Attorney General of U.S., 280 Fed.Appx. 197 (3rd Cir. 2008); Kamuh v. Mukasey, 280 Fed.Appx. 7 (1st Cir. 2008); Wontas v. Mukasey, 286 Fed.Appx. 510 (9th Cir. 2008); Manullang v. Mukasey, 291 Fed.Appx. 892 (10th Cir. 2008); Tendean v. Mukasey, 292 Fed.Appx. 633 (9th Cir. 2008); Umar v. Mukasey, 294 Fed.Appx. 353 (9th Cir. 2008); Siahaan v. Mukasey, 301 Fed.Appx. 768 (10th Cir. 2008); Quinteros-Mendoza v. Holder, 556 F.3d 159 (4th Cir. 2009); and Kojo v. Holder, Slip Copy, 2009 WL 1396836 (9th Cir. 2009)

[4]The 98 Jehovah’s Witnesses asylum cases to reach the courts of appeal, in chronological order, are: Canas-Segovia v. I.N.S., 902 F.2d 717 (9th Cir. 1990); Olmedo-Carrillo v. I.N.S., 908 F.2d 977 (9th Cir. 1990); Ohaya v. I.N.S., 9 F.3d 117 (10th Cir. 1993); Gebregiorgis v. I.N.S., 15 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 1994); Romero v. I.N.S., 54 F.3d 786 (9th Cir. 1995); Molina-Salinas v. I.N.S., 66 F.3d 335 (9th Cir. 1995); Dobrican v. I.N.S., 77 F.3d 164 (7th Cir. 1996); Vega-Gonzalez v. I.N.S., 85 F.3d 639 (9th Cir. 1996); Del Carmen Aviles v. I.N.S., 82 F.3d 422 (9th Cir. 1996); Gonzalez v. I.N.S., 82 F.3d 903 (9th Cir. 1996); Duarte-Perla v. I.N.S., 107 F.3d 15 (9th Cir. 1997); Zambrana-Cuadra v. I.N.S., 108 F.3d 340 (9th Cir. 1997); Bucur v. I.N.S., 109 F.3d 399 (7th Cir. 1997); Mejia-Paiz v. I.N.S., 111 F.3d 720 (9th Cir. 1997); Adriano v. I.N.S., 168 F.3d 497 (9th Cir. 1999); Foroglou v. I.N.S., 170 F.3d 68 (1st Cir. 1999); Essome v. U.S. I.N.S., 173 F.3d 850 (4th Cir. 1999); Adhanom v. I.N.S., 173 F.3d 859 (9th Cir. 1999); Castellanos-Castillo v. I.N.S., 191 F.3d 459 (9th Cir. 1999); Sidhu v. I.N.S., 220 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2000); Pop v. I.N.S., 270 F.3d 527 (7th Cir. 2001); Pop v. I.N.S., 279 F.3d 457 (7th Cir. 2002); Pop v. I.N.S., 55 Fed.Appx. 375 (7th Cir. 2003); Tesfu v. Ashcroft, 322 F.3d 477 (7th Cir. 2003); Reyes-Melendez v. I.N.S., 342 F.3d 1001 (9th Cir. 2003); Berhane v. Ashcroft, 78 Fed.Appx. 339 (5th Cir. 2003); Karacsony v. Ashcroft, 83 Fed.Appx. 167 (9th Cir. 2003); Medhin v. Ashcroft, 350 F.3d 685 (7th Cir. 2003); Chen v. Ashcroft, 85 Fed.Appx. 44 (9th Cir. 2003); Izazaga v. Ashcroft, 85 Fed.Appx. 635 (9th Cir. 2004); Muhur v. Ashcroft, 355 F.3d 958 (7th Cir. 2004); Tsaturyan v. Ashcroft, 89 Fed.Appx. 37 (9th Cir. 2004); Xue v. Ashcroft, 93 Fed.Appx. 380 (3rd Cir. 2004); Margaryan v. Ashcroft, 92 Fed.Appx. 525 (9th Cir. 2004); Woldemariam v. Ashcroft, 92 Fed.Appx. 537 (9th Cir. 2004); Gevorgyan v. Ashcroft, 92 Fed.Appx. 554 (9th Cir. 2004); Manukyan v. U.S., 96 Fed.Appx. 77 (3rd Cir. 2004); Hayrapetyan v. Ashcroft, 98 Fed.Appx. 625 (9th Cir. 2004); Suzdaltseva v. Ashcroft, 102 Fed.Appx. 565 (9th Cir. 2004); Saldivar-Dominguez v. Ashcroft, 107 Fed.Appx. 68 (9th Cir. 2004); Martirosyan v. Ashcroft, 107 Fed.Appx. 125 (9th Cir. 2004); Nigussie v. Ashcroft, 383 F.3d 531 (7th Cir. 2004); Babayan v. Ashcroft, 110 Fed.Appx. 43 (9th Cir. 2004); Pananyan v. Ashcroft, 110 Fed.Appx. 787 (9th Cir. 2004); Sargsyan v. Ashcroft, 109 Fed.Appx. 989 (9th Cir. 2004); Ghebremedhin v. Ashcroft, 385 F.3d 1116 (7th Cir. 2004); Tsegay v. Ashcroft, 386 F.3d 1347 (10th Cir. 2004); Tewelde v. Ashcroft, 114 Fed.Appx. 91 (4th Cir. 2004); Levit v. Ashcroft, 116 Fed.Appx. 394 (3rd Cir. 2004); Ghebremedhin v. Ashcroft, 392 F.3d 241 (7th Cir. 2004); Mogos v. Ashcroft, 117 Fed.Appx. 553 (9th Cir. 2004); Vaskanyan v. Ashcroft, 118 Fed.Appx. 200 (9th Cir. 2004); Mirzoyan v. Ashcroft, 120 Fed.Appx. 193 (9th Cir. 2005); Badalyan v. Gonzales, 121 Fed.Appx. 268 (9th Cir. 2005); Sun v. Gonzales, 126 Fed.Appx. 799 (9th Cir. 2005); Markosyan v. Gonzales, 127 Fed.Appx. 954 (9th Cir. 2005); Barsegian v. Gonzales,128 Fed.Appx. 633 (9th Cir. 2005); Patatanyan v. Gonzales, 132 Fed.Appx. 124 (9th Cir. 2005); Nikoghosyan v. Gonzales, 133 Fed.Appx. 450 (9th Cir. 2005); Bangsawa v. U.S. Attorney General, 136 Fed.Appx. 240 (11th Cir. 2005); Petrov v. U.S. Atty. Gen.,135 Fed.Appx. 377 (11th Cir. 2005); Tjen v. Gonzales, 143 Fed.Appx. 405 (3rd Cir. 2005); Fessehaye v. Gonzales, 414 F.3d 746 (7th Cir. 2005); Koulian v. Gonzales, 154 Fed.Appx. 642 (9th Cir. 2005); Ivanishvili v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 433 F.3d 332 (2nd Cir. 2006); Mikhaleva v. Gonzales, 167 Fed.Appx. 633 99th Cir. 2006); Israelyan v. Gonzales, 171 Fed.Appx. 85 (9th Cir. 2006); Woldemichael v. Ashcroft, 448 F.3d 1000 (8h Cir. 2006); Azimov v. Gonzales, 181 Fed.Appx. 601 (7th Cir. 2006); Henrys v. U.S. Atty. Gen., 184 Fed.Appx. 822 (11th Cir. 2006); Nwokeafor v. U.S. Atty. Gen., Slip Copy, 2006 WL 1594189 (11th Cir. 2006); Teclezghi v. Gonzales, 187 Fed.Appx. 749 (9th Cir. 2006); Zehatye v. Gonzales, 453 F.3d 1182 (9th Cir. 2006); Berhe v. Gonzales, 464 F.3d 74 (1st Cir. 2006); Mezvrishvili v. U.S. Atty. Gen., 467 F.3d 1292 (11th Cir. 2006); Gabriel-Perez v. Gonzales, 210 Fed.Appx. 723 (9th Cir. 2006); Mkrtchyan v. Gonzales, 215 Fed.Appx. 624 (9th Cir. 2006); Kutchaidze v. Gonzales, 218 Fed.Appx. 553 (8th Cir. 2007); Anjelia v. Gonzales, 226 Fed.Appx. 662 (9th Cir. 2007); Sarkisian v. Gonzales, 228 Fed.Appx. 654 (9th Cir. 2007); Feng Chen v. Gonzales, 224 Fed.Appx. 101 (2nd Cir. 2007); Osepashvili v. Gonzales, 235 Fed.Appx. 806 (2nd Cir. 2007); Mironova v. Attorney General of the U.S., 259 Fed.Appx. 503 (3rd Cir. 2008); Kantourian v. Michael Mukasey, 265 Fed.Appx. 657 (9th Cir. 2008); Chelle v. Attorney General of U.S., 264 Fed.Appx. 199 (3rd Cir. 2008); Shakhijanyan v. Mukasey, 268 Fed.Appx. 511 (9th Cir. 2008); Khudaverdyan v. Mukasey, 273 Fed.Appx. 618 (9th Cir. 2008); Kupczyk v. Attorney General of U.S., 283 Fed.Appx. 44 (3rd Cir. 2008); Paomey v. Mukasey, 282 Fed.Appx. 691 (10th Cir. 2008);Zodelava v. Attorney General of U.S., 290 Fed.Appx. 504 (3rd Cir. 2008); Avagyan v. Mukasey, 291 Fed.Appx. 825 (9th Cir. 2008);Aytayan v. Mukasey, 294 Fed.Appx. 360 (9th Cir. 2008); Ghukasyan v. Mukasey, 306 Fed.Appx. 369 (9th Cir. 2008); Vardanyan v. Mukasey, 305 Fed.Appx. 474 (9th Cir. 2008); Gordeziani v. Attorney General of U.S., 321 Fed.Appx. 139 (3rd Cir. 2009); Yan Lan Hong v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 320 Fed.Appx. 98 (2nd Cir. 2009); Shvetsov v. Holder, 324 Fed.Appx. 678 (9th Cir. 2009); and Kauspadas v. Holder, Slip Copy, 2009 WL 1427106 (7th Cir. 2009).

[5] The five successful Mormon asylum claims were in Shirazi-Parsa v. I.N.S., 14 F.3d 1424 (9th Cir. 1994); Avetova-Elisseva v. I.N.S., 213 F.3d 1192 (9th Cir. 2000); Mendoza v. I.N.S., 28 Fed.Appx. 586 (8th Cir. 2002); Koval v. Gonzales, 418 F.3d 798 (7th Cir. 2005); Morales v. Gonzales, 188 Fed.Appx. 780 (10th Cir. 2006); Hadera v. Gonzales, 494 F.3d 1154(9th Cir. 2007).

[6] The three successful Adventist asylum claims were in Khup v. Ashcroft, 376 F.3d 898 (9th Cir. 2004)(Burma); Tretiakova v. Gonzales, 221 Fed.Appx. 639 (9th Cir. 2007)(Russia); and Floroiu v. Gonzales, 481 F.3d 970 (7th Cir. 2007)(Romania).

[7] The 25 claims by Jehovah’s Witnesses that were successful were in Canas-Segovia v. I.N.S., 902 F.2d 717 (9th Cir. 1990); Gonzalez v. I.N.S., 82 F.3d 903 (9th Cir. 1996); Adriano v. I.N.S., 168 F.3d 497 (9th Cir. 1999); Adhanom v. I.N.S., 173 F.3d 859 (9th Cir. 1999); Castellanos-Castillo v. I.N.S.,191 F.3d 459 (9th Cir. 1999); Sidhu v. I.N.S., 220 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2000); Reyes-Melendez v. I.N.S., 342 F.3d 1001 (9th Cir. 2003); Chen v. Ashcroft, 85 Fed.Appx. 44 (9th Cir. 2003); Muhur v. Ashcroft, 355 F.3d 958 (7th Cir. 2004); Tsaturyan v. Ashcroft, 89 Fed.Appx. 37 (9th Cir. 2004); Margaryan v. Ashcroft, 92 Fed.Appx. 525 (9th Cir. 2004); Gevorgyan v. Ashcroft, 92 Fed.Appx. 554 (9th Cir. 2004); Ghebremedhin v. Ashcroft, 385 F.3d 1116 (7th Cir. 2004); Ghebremedhin v. Ashcroft, 392 F.3d 241 (7th Cir. 2004); Mogos v. Ashcroft, 117 Fed.Appx. 553 (9th Cir. 2004); Badalyan v. Gonzales, 121 Fed.Appx. 268 (9th Cir. 2005); Sun v. Gonzales, 126 Fed.Appx. 799 (9th Cir. 2005); Nikoghosyan v. Gonzales, 133 Fed.Appx. 450 (9th Cir. 2005); Fessehaye v. Gonzales, 414 F.3d 746 (7th Cir. 2005); Ivanishvili v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 433 F.3d 332 (2nd Cir. 2006); Berhe v. Gonzales, 464 F.3d 74 (1st Cir. 2006); Mezvrishvili v. U.S. Atty. Gen., 467 F.3d 1292 (11th Cir. 2006); Mkrtchyan v. Gonzales, 215 Fed.Appx. 624 (9th Cir. 2006); Anjelia v. Gonzales, 226 Fed.Appx. 662 (9th Cir. 2007); and Osepashvili v. Gonzales, 235 Fed.Appx. 806 (2nd Cir. 2007).

[8] The 25 Jehovah’s Witness asylum claims involving Armenia were in Tsaturyan v. Ashcroft, 89 Fed.Appx. 37 (9th Cir. 2004); Margaryan v. Ashcroft, 92 Fed.Appx. 525 (9th Cir. 2004); Gevorgyan v. Ashcroft, 92 Fed.Appx. 554 (9th Cir. 2004); Manukyan v. U.S., 96 Fed.Appx. 77 (3rd Cir. 2004); Hayrapetyan v. Ashcroft, 98 Fed.Appx. 625 (9th Cir. 2004); Martirosyan v. Ashcroft, 107 Fed.Appx. 125 (9th Cir. 2004); Babayan v. Ashcroft, 110 Fed.Appx. 43 (9th Cir. 2004); Pananyan v. Ashcroft, 110 Fed.Appx. 787 (9th Cir. 2004); Sargsyan v. Ashcroft, 109 Fed.Appx. 989 (9th Cir. 2004); Vaskanyan v. Ashcroft, 118 Fed.Appx. 200 (9th Cir. 2004); Mirzoyan v. Ashcroft, 120 Fed.Appx. 193 (9th Cir. 2005); Badalyan v. Gonzales, 121 Fed.Appx. 268 (9th Cir. 2005); Markosyan v. Gonzales, 127 Fed.Appx. 954 (9th Cir. 2005); Barsegian v. Gonzales, 128 Fed.Appx. 633 (9th Cir. 2005); Patatanyan v. Gonzales, 132 Fed.Appx. 124 (9th Cir. 2005); Nikoghosyan v. Gonzales, 133 Fed.Appx. 450 (9th Cir. 2005); Israelyan v. Gonzales, 171 Fed.Appx. 85 (9th Cir. 2006); Mkrtchyan v. Gonzales, 215 Fed.Appx. 624 (9th Cir. 2006); Sarkisian v. Gonzales, 228 Fed.Appx. 654 (9th Cir. 2007); Kantourian v. Michael Mukasey, 265 Fed.Appx. 657 (9th Cir. 2008); Shakhijanyan v. Mukasey, 268 Fed.Appx. 511 (9th Cir. 2008); Khudaverdyan v. Mukasey, 273 Fed.Appx. 618 (9th Cir. 2008); Avagyan v. Mukasey, 291 Fed.Appx. 825 (9th Cir. 2008); Vardanyan v. Mukasey, 305 Fed.Appx. 474 (9th Cir. 2008); and Ghukasyan v. Mukasey, 306 Fed.Appx. 369 (9th Cir. 2008).

[9] The 21 Adventist claims involving Indonesia are in Sahensolar v. I.N.S., 168 F.3d 501 (9th Cir. 1998); Setyawan v. Ashcroft, 111 Fed.Appx. 579 (10th Cir. 2004); Silitonga v. Gonzales, 160 Fed.Appx. 782 (10th Cir. 2005); Peter v. Gonzales, 183 Fed.Appx. 805 (10th Cir. 2006); Poerwantini v. Gonzales, 217 Fed.Appx. 592 (8th Cir. 2007); Panjaitan v. Gonzales, 224 Fed.Appx. 853 (10th Cir. 2007); Lumbangaol v. Keisler, 258 Fed.Appx. 167 (10th Cir. 2007); Sibuea v. Mukasey, 260 Fed.Appx. 43 (10th Cir. 2007); Rotinsulu v. Mukasey, 515 F.3d 68 (1st Cir. 2008); Sitompul v. Mukasey, 272 Fed.Appx. 696 (10th Cir. 2008); Harahap v. Attorney General of U.S., 275 Fed.Appx. 95 (3rd Cir. 2008); Esfandiary v. Mukasey, 277 Fed.Appx. 816 (10th Cir. 2008); Liem v. Attorney General of U.S., 280 Fed.Appx. 206 (3rd Cir. 2008); Zakarias v. Attorney General of U.S., 280 Fed.Appx. 197 (3rd Cir. 2008); Kamuh v. Mukasey, 280 Fed.Appx. 7 (1st Cir. 2008); Wontas v. Mukasey, 286 Fed.Appx. 510 (9th Cir. 2008); Manullang v. Mukasey, 291 Fed.Appx. 892 (10th Cir. 2008); Tendean v. Mukasey, 292 Fed.Appx. 633 (9th Cir. 2008); Umar v. Mukasey, 294 Fed.Appx. 353 (9th Cir. 2008); Siahaan v. Mukasey, 301 Fed.Appx. 768 (10th Cir. 2008); and Kojo v. Holder, Slip Copy, 2009 WL 1396836 (9th Cir. 2009).

[10] The six successful Jehovah’s Witness claims involving Eritrea were in Adhanom v. I.N.S., 173 F.3d 859 (9th Cir. 1999); Muhur v. Ashcroft, 355 F.3d 958 (7th Cir. 2004); Ghebremedhin v. Ashcroft, 385 F.3d 1116 (7th Cir. 2004); Ghebremedhin v. Ashcroft, 392 F.3d 241 (7th Cir. 2004);Mogos v. Ashcroft, 117 Fed.Appx. 553 (9th Cir. 2004); and Fessehaye v. Gonzales, 414 F.3d 746 (7th Cir. 2005).

[11] Wang v. Gonzales, 207 Fed.Appx. 130 (2nd Cir. 2006); Liang Wen v. Gonzales, 223 Fed.Appx. 674 (9th Cir. 2007); Dan Zhu Wong v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Sec., 271 Fed.Appx. 77 (2nd Cir. 2008).

[12] Vorobieva v. I.N.S., 172 F.3d 64 (10th Cir. 1999); Yunus v. I.N.S., 176 F.3d 490 (10th Cir. 1999); Avetova-Elisseva v. I.N.S., 213 F.3d 1192 (9th Cir. 2000); Igoshin v. I.N.S., 50 Fed.Appx. 905 (10th Cir. 2002).

[13] Morales v. Gonzales, 188 Fed.Appx. 780 (10th Cir. 2006);

[14] Shirazi-Parsa v. I.N.S., 14 F.3d 1424 (9th Cir. 1994);

[15] Hadera v. Gonzales, 494 F.3d 1154(9th Cir. 2007)

[16] Avetova-Elisseva v. I.N.S., 213 F.3d 1192 (9th Cir. 2000)

[17] Koval v. Gonzales, 418 F.3d 798 (7th Cir. 2005)

Comments

comments

Comments 10

  1. I love the figures!

    You noted that there was a policy change in 1980 that accounts for the jump in the number of asylum cases at that time. So what do you think caused the perhaps even more dramatic change in 2000-2001? Did it have anything to do with September 11th?

    Regarding the number of asylum cases brought by members of different religions, that’s a really interesting way of measuring how persecuted different American religions are in other countries. I wonder if there might not be so many variables operating, though, on those numbers, that it’s difficult to reach a solid conclusion (particularly given the small sample size).

    [Also, I think we’re in the first years of the 21st century rather than the 20th.]

  2. PS Your point about 9/11 is right on. A few years ago, I wrote an article that showed how Muslim asylum claims are increasing, and how the biggest increase were Muslim claimants who feared being sent back to Muslim countries. I concluded that, contrary to widespread belief, the US is in fact a force of good in the Muslim world (since we are the last, best hope for many Muslims suffering repression at the hands of other Muslims.)

  3. I really applaud your collection and presentation of these asylum statistics. I can’t really add anything based on my own meager knowledge, but I do have one question: in the 160 cases broken down by religious denomination, am I right in thinking that these are cases where the basis for the asylum claim was religious persecution, at least in part? In other words, these do not include cases where, for example, the claimant merely happened to be a Jehovah’s Witness but made a claim having nothing to do with religion?

  4. Yes, that’s right. They all involve claims of religion-premised persecution. Some of the Jehovah’s cases involved petitions describing the petitioner’s religion as Jehovah’s despite contrary evidence at the hearing (like the person was a Pentacotal), but they were all based on alleged religious (Mormon/Adventist/ Christian Scientist/ Jehovah’s Witness) persecution in some way. Does that answer your qu?

  5. re #3

    Some few years ago I heard a portion of an interview with a Muslim writer. His premise was that within the religious freedom of the US there was a possibility for the full flowering of the highest order of the Muslim religion — a more pure Koranic life was, as I remember, how he put it. He felt that in Muslim-dominant regions there was a fusion of political and religious forces that distorted the religion and put undue emphasis on certain repressive, particularly gender repressive, portions of the Koran as a means of intimidation and control rather than a pursuit of the ideals of the Koran. He referred to other passages that made clear a separate but equal intent that was more possible in this climate.

    It was an interesting interview. I was sorry then that I didn’t catch his name or credentials so I was at a loss to learn more. In the ensuing years, I’ve inquired of Muslim people I’ve encountered what their feelings about it was. The responses have been all over the map and probably reflect a defensiveness about a minority culture under stress since 9/11 more than a serious consideration of that particular question.

    In any case, I would imagine it would be a hard road for Muslims, particularly Muslim women, accustomed to the freedoms of the Western world to be forced back into Muslim-dominant cultures. In fact, I’ve read some stories about French Muslim women having been thrown into such circumstances as the ultimate penalty for independent thinking. Many of them attempt suicides, typically with super heated cooking oils, the only thing at their disposal.

  6. You’re dead-on Alice. In fact, your views echo those within the Department of Justice (where I work) responsible for Muslim outreach. They hear the very same thing. The dilemma for me has been insisting on disciplined outreach towards the “mainstream” Islamic rights groups (i.e.not rewarding the wrong actors – those repressing US constituents) on those increasingly-rate times I am consulted.. (BTW, our live-in nanny is currently claiming asylum as the basis for her daughter and her overseas husband being reunited. The claim is based on the threat that her US-born daughter – who I love as one my own – would be subject to female circumcision). So you’re absolutely on firm footing. My attitude? I like to consider myself a pragmatist, but I still live in fear that “accomodation” with evil Muslim governments will violate the aspirations of Muslims living in horrendous conditions. So I say: let 1,000 flowers bloom. Create asylum opportunities for the eligible, without apologies.

  7. I always reproach myself for not having read the Koran since 9/11. Perhaps now is the time to do it and decide for myself if it preaches the peace and egalitarianism cited by the unidentified writer I heard speak and not the repression and aggression it’s been used to implement.

    In any case, to the extent that I have read passages, it seems to be full of frustratingly contradictory teachings. And perhaps that’s what’s given rise to the authority of mullahs as opposed to personal revelation. But then the passages I’ve read have been cited specifically because they’re so seemingly mutually exclusive.

  8. Jeff, I notice that you continue to focus on Mormons, Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. in your research. Any notion as to how the data plays out for other denominations? My suspicion is that religious persecution asylum cases for foreign Mormons are more like other Christian denominations than they are like Jehovah’s Witness cases.

  9. You might be right, Peter, but I chose these three other religions because they seem to be the ones with which Mormons are most confused. When I unveil the rest of my findings, you’ll see that the comparison between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons is the most apt, for better or worse. The Adventists and the Christian Scientists do not present the same similarities, and I’m hard-pressed to find another religion that shares as many commonalities as the Witnesses do.

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