August 08, 2006

Jenner & Block recently obtained an appellate victory on behalf of pro bono client Theresa Banks, a Liberian refugee who is seeking asylum based on alleged persecution by the government for her ethnicity and political beliefs. 

Ms. Banks is a member of the Krahn tribe, an ethnic group that opposed the Liberian government under the regime of former President Charles Taylor. She alleged that she was twice detained, beaten and tortured by paramilitary officers, and that her home was raided and destroyed during an attack on a settlement populated by ethnic Krahns. 

Ms. Banks escaped to the United States and applied for asylum.  However, her application was denied by both an Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals. 

Associate Alison A. Dieterichs argued on behalf of Ms. Banks in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, demonstrating that the Immigration Judge and BIA gave deficient reasons for their rulings.  As a result, a unanimous Seventh Circuit panel ruled that the Immigration Judge’s decision was “[n]ot remotely” supported by substantial evidence and remanded the case to the immigration agency for another review of Ms. Banks’s case.

In its opinion, the court highlighted expert testimony presented on behalf of Ms. Banks, noting that the agency did not offer any evidence to the contrary, and suggesting that perhaps Ms. Banks’s case is emblematic of larger problems with the U.S. asylum system.  “What the immigration bureaucracy needs is a counterpart to [Ms. Banks’s expert] for each country, someone who knows local conditions at a level of detail that would permit him to opine on the question whether a given alien’s assertions are plausible,” the court wrote. 

In addition to Ms. Dieterichs, Associate Kathryn E. Loncarich represented Ms. Banks under the supervision of Partner Richard J. Gray

Please click here to view the Seventh Circuit opinion.