CA9 on Credibility: Bassene v. Holder

CA9 on Credibility: Bassene v. Holder

"Alphonse Charles Bassene (“Bassene”), a native and citizen of Senegal, petitions for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) decision denying his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”).  Bassene sought lawful status in the United States by mistakenly filing an N-400 citizenship application instead of filing an I-589 asylum application. He attached a one-page statement to his citizenship application explaining that he had expected to see questions asking if he had been persecuted for his ethnicity or political beliefs in Senegal, because these were the reasons he was seeking refuge in the United States.  After Bassene’s N-400 citizenship application was denied, an Immigration and Naturalization Services Officer directed him to file an asylum application. In his I-589 asylum application, Bassene answered questions about the political and ethnic persecution he experienced in great detail. The answers in Bassene’s I-589 application were consistent with the testimony he gave at his removal hearing. The Immigration Judge (“IJ”) found that Bassene was not credible, however, because Bassene had not supplied the same level of detail about persecution when he filled out his mistakenly filed N-400 citizenship application. The BIA affirmed.

We hold that substantial evidence does not support the BIA’s adverse credibility finding. The IJ should not have drawn an adverse inference from the low level of detail about persecution provided in Bassene’s N-400 citizenship application, which is not designed to elicit information about persecution. The BIA erred when it adopted the IJ’s flawed reasoning. The BIA also erred when it found that Bassene was not credible on the ground that his citizenship and asylum applications were inconsistent. We have jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. § 1252. We grant the petition for review, vacate the BIA’s adverse credibility finding, and remand to the BIA to determine whether Bassene is eligible for asylum." - Bassene v. Holder, July 23, 2013.