Those seeking to escape immediate danger or imminent persecution often rely on false documents when fleeing to a safe country.  But can a fraudulent or illegal entry into the U.S. pose an issue for asylum?

The manner of entry into this country, or the circumvention of an orderly refugee process abroad, is indeed one of the factors that can weigh against granting asylum. That, however, cannot be an independent ground to deny asylum, but has to be considered in the context of other factors, as recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals and several Courts of Appeals.   See Lin v. Gonzales, 445 F.3d 127, 133-34 (2d Cir. 2006). As one court noted, if illegal entry were an independent reason to deny asylum, “virtually no persecuted refugee would obtain asylum.” Wu Zheng Huang v. INS, 436 F.3d 89, 100 (2d Cir. 2006).

When can domestic violence form the basis of a successful asylum claim?  A New York City immigration judge recently granted asylum to one of our pro bono clients who was found to have suffered past persecution on account of her membership in a particular social group—that of “Honduran women in a common law marriage who are unable to leave the relationship.”  This result is consistent with recent authority establishing that an asylum claim can, depending on the particular facts and circumstances, be grounded upon the inability to leave an abusive domestic relationship.