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Protect Asylum Seekers Undergoing Credible Fear Interviews in the United States

For any media requests please contact:

Pangea Legal Services, Niloufar Khonsari (415) 254-0475
Transgender Law Center, Olga Tomchin (415) 865.0176 ext. 316
- Central American Resource Center—San Francisco (CARECEN) Laura Polstein (415) 642-4412


Background: Tell USCIS to rescind the "2014 Lesson Plan" on Credible Fear. The "2014 Lesson Plan" is a training guide for asylum officers and immigration agents. It was issued hastily in February of 2014, without transparency. We suspect it was designed to encourage asylum officers to deny more cases and kick out genuine asylum seekers from the US. The "2014 Lesson Plan" misstates the laws that apply to asylum, and it is not in line with the US Supreme Court's interpretation of the law.


The Documents:

2014 Lesson Plan, John Lafferty, the chief of the Asylum Division at USCIS

Immigration Law Professor Bill Hing's Memorandum outlining key problems with the 2014 Lesson Plan

Organizational sign on letter from diverse coalition of immigrants and advocates for immigrant, LGBTQ, and human rights groups.

"We call for a basic level of integrity, protection, and care for asylum seekers undergoing credible fear interviews in the United States. We urge USCIS to rescind the 2014 Lesson Plan and retrain officers to apply an appropriate standard that upholds our values and laws."
-  African Advocacy Network
-  African Services Committee
-  AIDS Legal Referral Panel
-  American Gateways
-  Americans for Immigrant Justice
-  Asian Americans Advancing Justice- Asian Law Caucus
-  Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
-  Canal Alliance
-  CARECEN Los Angeles
-  Nationalities Service Center
-  Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia
-  New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia
-  Juntos
-  Fight for Driver's Licenses PA
-  DreamActivist Pennsylvania
-  CARECEN San Francisco
-  Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program
-  Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, a project of the American Friends Service Committee
-  Colorado Anti-Violence Program
-  Community United Against Violence
-  Dolores Street Community Services
-  East Bay Community Law Center
-  Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC)
-  El/La Para TransLatinas
-  Equality New Mexico
-  Flynn Law Office
-  GetEqual
-  Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
-  Immigrant Legal Resource Center
-  Immigrant Youth Justice League
-  Immigration Center for Women and Children
-  Justice for Our Neighbors -- Northern Illinois
-  L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
-  Lambda Legal
-  Law Office of Helen Lawrence
-  Law Offices of Christina Y. Chen
-  Law Offices of Melissa Martinelli
-  Liberty Law, PLLC
-  Mujeres Unidas y Activas
-  National Center for Lesbian Rights
-  National Center for Transgender Equality
-  National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
-  National Lawyers Guild
-  National Lawyers Guild SF Chapter
-  National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
-  New York City Anti-Violence Project
-  New York Legal Assistance Group LGBT Law & Immigration Projects
-  Our Family Coalition
-  Out4Immigration
-  Pangea Legal Services
-  Queer Detainee Empowerment Project
-  Racial Justice Action Center
-  Refugio del Rio Grande
-  Salvadoran American National Network
-  Sanctuary for Families
-  Social Justice Collaborative
-  Southerners on New Ground
-  Southwest Women's Law Center
-  Sylvia Rivera Law Project
-  Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition
-  The Community Law Office
-  Third Wave Fund
-  Transgender Law Center
-  TSPN Transgender Service Providers Network
-  UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic
-  UW Immigrant Justice Clinic
-  Urban Justice Center

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The Petition

Target: John Lafferty, the chief of the Asylum Division at USCIS

Background: The purpose of a credible fear determination is to screen for possible refugees and to ensure that the U.S. does not return a person to a country where the person would be at risk of being persecuted or tortured. We are concerned that the 2014 Lesson Plan and resulting training of asylum officers will lead to violations of U.S. obligations under domestic and international laws to protect asylum seekers.

We, a broad and diverse coalition of immigrants and advocates for immigrant, LGBTQ, and human rights, request an immediate rescission of the 2014 Lesson Plan on Credible Fear of Persecution and Torture Determinations (2014 Lesson Plan) issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on February 28, 2014.

Individuals who previously would have received positive determinations have, under the 2014 Lesson Plan and training, received negative determinations including some of the most vulnerable asylum seekers, such as LGBTQ survivors of persecution, and domestic violence survivors.

The 2014 Lesson Plan is misleading because its organization, formulation, and tone suggest a higher standard for making a positive credible fear determination than is appropriate under applicable law.

Thus, the Lesson Plan creates confusion by suggesting that a high possibility of success is required, which is inappropriate under the Supreme Court precedent.

With the 2014 Lesson Plan, DHS risks erroneously returning many asylum seekers to their countries of origin in violation of basic principles of refugee law.

I ask for integrity, protection, and care for asylum seekers in the United States.

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