Letter to asylum attorney seeking expert

Dear __________,

Through a series of forwarded emails, you client’s case was referred to me. I very frequently serve as Country Conditions Expert in cases involving Hondurans seeking asylum in the United States. The asylum seekers I serve are fleeing a wide variety of forms of violence, including drug cartels and gangs, persecution by police and military death squads, and domestic, gender and sexuality-based violence. I provide this support without regard to the applicant’s political stance, in part because I strongly believe that borders themselves are a violation of human rights, especially at a time when finance capital and goods travel freely, adding to the impoverishment of people in already-impoverished countries like Honduras.

While I do believe people’s movements should not be restricted, the underlying premise of refugee law, as I understand it (I am not a lawyer), is that it is necessary to show systematic, often government-supported repression based on some sort of group identification, i.e.:

A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it...

Given this definition, your client’s argument is not just patently absurd; it is harmful to the many thousands of Honduran asylum seekers who have claims that fall well within the scope of this definition. There is—and this is an irrefutable fact—no pattern of violence perpetrated by the Libre party against those who denounce it. To the contrary, individuals who criticize Libre are protected by the Honduran military, the national police, the military police, the judicial system, and other government- and business-affiliated groups and cartels, all complicit in the still-unresolved 2009 military coup. Libre members and others who have spoken out against the violence of the current and previous administrations have been systematically killed by death squads in the employ of the aforementioned organizations. To argue the opposite in order to protect your client would be a cynical lie, and would distort and cheapen the reality of people fleeing the actual patterns of political violence in Honduras.

Perhaps you have taken this case on unaware of the current political situation in Honduras. If so, I am happy to point you to countless resources on it. That said, I find it deeply troubling that various “experts” on patterns of Honduran violence forwarded your request until it (perhaps inevitably) reached me. Your client’s claim to be a victim of systematic persecution (I cannot speak to his claim of individualized harassment, which may or may not be true) is a patent lie. In the country that has had the highest homicide rate in the world for several years out of the past five, with far higher rates of extrajudicial assassination carried out against members of Libre than perhaps any other group, such a lie only increases the impunity enjoyed by the real perpetrators of systemic human rights violations, and weakens the cases of Honduran asylum seekers who are actually fleeing the kinds of persecution laid out in Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention as amended by the 1967 Protocol.

Adrienne Pine