Amicus Briefs & Special Projects
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Amicus Brief: Gomis v. Holder (September 2009)
Human Rights First, along with other groups, submitted an amicus brief in support of a petition for certiorari in a case involving federal court jurisdiction to review decisions relating to the one-year asylum filing deadline. The brief explains why judicial review of one-year deadline determinations is necessary – to ensure that refugees are not improperly denied asylum or deported back to countries where they face political, religious and other forms of persecution. Human Rights First and other amici petitioners were represented by Steven Schulman of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, and by Alice Clapman of Georgetown Law, who drafted the brief.
Jones Day LLP
Amicus Brief: Ali v. Achim, et al (November 2007)
U.S. Supreme Court: Human Rights First and leading legal scholars have submitted an amicus brief in a case involving the "particularly serious crime" bar that is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The amici argue that, in excluding a refugee from protection, the U.S. Refugee Act requires consideration of an individual's "danger to the community" and not simply a mechanical determination of whether a "particularly serious crime" was committed. Amici argue that the Board's approach contradicts the plain language of the Refugee Act as well as Congress's intent to incorporate the Refugee Convention's terms. The amici include Guy Goodwin-Gill, James C. Hathaway, and Deborah Anker; they were represented by Brian J. Murray, Gene Crawford, and James E. Gauch of Jones Day LLP.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Amicus Brief: S-K- v. Gonzales (January 2007)
Fifth Circuit: Human Rights First, along with Human Rights Watch, the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program's International Human Rights Clinic filed an amicus in the case S-K- v. Gonzales. The brief addresses the problematic application of the material support bar by the Board of Immigration Appeals in a case where the Board itself found the asylum seeker to have a well-founded fear of future persecution. Not only is this position inconsistent with U.S. treaty obligations concerning refugees, the decision could result in a more frequent application of the material support bar, which in turn would prevent asylum-seekers fleeing or resisting massive human rights violations from getting refuge in the United States. Human Rights First and other Amici Supporting Petitioners were represented by Scott T. Williams of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
Human Rights First
Amicus Brief: Matter of R-K- (August 2006)
Board of Immigration Appeals: Human Rights First filed an amicus brief addressing whether an asylum seeker who was kidnapped by a terrorist organization and forced to pay the organization money for his own ransom can be barred from asylum on the theory that his ransom payment constituted "material support" to the terrorist organization. The Immigration Judge in this case recognized that the asylum seeker acted under coercion, but held that the "material support" statute barred from protection even refugees who acted under duress. The Board of Immigration Appeals requested supplemental briefing on this issue, and Human Rights First filed this brief in support of the asylum applicant. The brief was prepared by Anwen Hughes, staff attorney in the Refugee Protection Program, and law student intern Theodore Roethke (Columbia Law School 2008).
Winston & Strawn LLP
Amicus Brief: Lopez v. Gonzales (June 2006)
U.S. Supreme Court: Human Rights First filed an amicus brief in the case of Lopez v. Gonzales. This brief highlights the fact that the government's position in the case would have been inconsistent with U.S. obligations under international law, allowing refugees who had been convicted of minor possession offenses to be deported to persecution, in violation of the Refugee Convention. While the case did not involve asylum seekers in particular, the Supreme Court's ruling in the case could have had a negative impact on some refugees, and on the interpretation of bars to refugee protection more generally. In December 2006, the Supreme Court found that the federal government was wrong to apply the "drug trafficking" aggravated felony ground to the state felony drug possession conviction at issue in the case. Human Rights First was represented by Gene C. Schaerr, Krista M. Enns, Linda T. Coberly, and Lisa Seilheimer of Winston & Strawn LLP.
Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP
Amicus Brief: Gu v. Gonzales (March 2006)
Ninth Circuit: Human Rights First, along with Jubilee Campaign USA, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, and Public Counsel filed an amicus brief in the case Gu v. Gonzales. Both the Board of Immigration Appeals and the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit had denied Petitioner Gu asylum based on his religious persecution claim. The brief argues that the court's finding that the asylum seeker's suffering does not constitute "persecution" was not consistent with the court's definition of the term "persecution," or with U.S. obligations under the Refugee Convention and the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The brief also argues that, if left in place, the court's decision would effectively force would-be refugees to avoid persecution by sacrificing their "fundamental right" to freedom of religion. Human Rights First and other amici petitioners were represented by Laura A. Wytsma of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP.
Briggs & Morgan, P.A.
Amicus Brief: Li v. Gonzales (October 2005)
Fifth Circuit: Human Rights First, along with Amnesty International USA, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, the Asian American Justice Center, and Episcopal Migration Ministries filed an amicus brief in the case Li v. Gonzales. The brief argued that the Board of Immigration Appeals erred in holding that punishment, under a criminal law that prohibits all non-government regulated religious activity, is not persecution on account of religion. To the contrary, international law, incorporated by U.S. law, recognizes that freedom of religion necessarily includes freedom to practice one's religion. Specifically, international refugee law, as interpreted by U.S. courts, recognizes that prosecution for religious practices is persecution where, as in this case, the law violates accepted human rights standards and cannot be justified by any compelling public interest, such as safety. Human Rights First and other amici petitioners were represented by Jeffrey J. Keyes of Briggs & Morgan, P.A.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Amicus Brief: Arias v Ashcroft (October 2004)
Third Circuit: Human Rights First filed an amicus brief in the case of Arias v Ashcroft. This brief addresses the Board of Immigration Appeals' holding that civilians who are extorted by terrorist organizations or forced to pay "taxes" to them on threat of harm have "engaged in terrorist activity." Human Rights First is concerned that under this reading, a civilian who has been victimized by a terrorized organization by being coerced into paying funds will be treated as a terrorist himself and be barred from asylum in the United States. Human Rights First was represented by Edward Lazarus, Seth Stodder, and L. Rachel Helyar of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Amicus Brief: Dia v Ashcroft (September 2002)
Third Circuit: Human Rights First along with the American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF) filed an amicus brief in the case of Dia v Ashcroft. The brief addresses the constitutional and administrative law repercussions of the "affirmance without opinion" procedure utilized in the Dia case by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Human Rights First and AILF express in the brief concerns about the fairness of this process, under which single Board members rubberstamp the results of decisions by Immigration Judges. Human Rights First was represented by Steven Kolleeny and Diane Kassleman of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
This country by country review is directed primarily at the legal procedures governing detention of asylum seekers and in particular the absence of existence of measures that might help to prevent arbitrary detention in individual cases. The law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP undertook this review of states' detention procedures for asylum seekers, requesting specific information from states and consulting reports issued by various international and national non-governmental organizations and UNHCR.
Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
Amicus Brief: Haitian detention policy (July 2002)
Eleventh Circuit: Human Rights First filed an amicus brief in the case of Moise v Bulger with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The brief discusses the ways in which the U.S. detention policy directed at Haitian asylum seekers is out of step with international human rights and refugee law and standards. Human Rights First was represented by Douglas Gray of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.
Chadbourne & Parke LLP
Amicus Brief: Confidentiality Obligations with Asylum Claims (December 2001)
The brief addresses U.S. government breaches of confidentiality obligations with asylum claims. Two issues are considered – the need to preserve the integrity of the asylum application process by investigating false claims, and the right of an applicant to seek asylum without fear of putting his or her loved ones in harm's way. Human Rights First was represented by Peter Hillman, Carla Copeland, Aileen Haviland and Deele Jawde of Chadbourne & Parke LLP.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Amicus Brief: Matter of Mkhizi (June 2000)
Board of Immigration Appeals: Human Rights First filed an amicus brief in Matter of Mkhizi, a case that was pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals. The brief addressed several issues relating to the fairness of the conduct of the expedited removal procedures. Human Rights First was represented by Melvyn L. Cantor and Tracy M. Flynn of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Mr. Mkhizi was represented by Elizabeth Wolstein and Katherine Cooperman of Kramer Levin Neftalis & Frankel. The brief was filed in June 2000. In November 2000, the Board granted Mr. Mkhizi's asylum claim. After 3 ½ years in detention, he finally won his freedom.
McCarter & English
Amicus Brief: Abdulai v Reno (June 2000)
Third Circuit: Human Rights First filed an amicus brief in the case of Abdulai v. Reno with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The case involves the same critical burden of proof issue as the Diallo case (see below Moussa Diallo v INS). Human Rights First was represented by Richard W. Hill, Brenda C. Liss, and Anthony F. Yacullo of McCarter & English. The brief was filed in June 2000.
Latham & Watkins
Amicus Brief: Elian Gonzalez v. Reno (April 2000)
Eleventh Circuit: Human Rights First, along with the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, filed an amicus brief in the case of Elian Gonzalez v. Reno. The amicus brief, which was submitted in support of neither side, expressed concern about the unduly broad sweep of discretion that the District Court decision below had afforded to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The brief also addressed the broader issue of the right of children to apply for asylum under both U.S. and international law. Human Rights First was represented by Mark D. Beckett, Martin N. Flics, and Jeffrey A. Tochner of Latham & Watkins. The brief was filed in April 2000, and the Eleventh Circuit's May 2000 decision made clear that children can indeed apply for asylum and was much more circumspect in the level of discretion it afforded to decisions of the INS.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Amicus Brief: Moussa Diallo v INS (March 2000)
Second Circuit: Human Rights First filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the case of Diallo v. INS seeking to overturn a "precedent" decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals which has unduly heightened the burden of proof in asylum cases and is inconsistent with U.S. law and international standards. Human Rights First was represented by Steven J. Kolleeny and Jennifer A. Ferrante of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The petitioner was represented by Ogden N. Lewis and Michael Dion of Davis Polk & Wardwell. The brief was filed in March 2000.