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Gay Saudi Diplomat Denied Asylum

by Jason Dzubow

About a year ago, I wrote about Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Los Angeles, who applied for asylum based on his sexual orientation.  Now, the Jerusalem Post reports that his claim for asylum has been denied (the article also demonstrates the Post’s shoddy journalism, but more on that below).

This photo probably was not taken in Saudi Arabia (and not just because of the snowy mountains in the background).

According to the Post, Mr. Asseri’s supporters believe that the decision to deny asylum was politically motivated: “This was a political decision by the Obama administration, who are afraid of upsetting the Saudis,” one Saudi dissident said.  The Post also hints at another issue in the case:

[Mr. Asseri's] initial interview with Homeland Security was very positive, but then they came back and grilled him for two days after they found out that he had worked in the public prosecutor’s office in Saudi Arabia….  He had been an inspector to make sure that judicial punishments, such as lashings, were carried out within the law – not more, not less.  They then accused him of participating in a form of torture.

Anyone familiar with U.S. asylum law will immediately see the problem–people who persecute others are barred by statute from obtaining asylum.  Mr. Asseri apparently participated in punishments “such as lashings” (and who knows what else?), and so he is barred from asylum as a persecutor.  There is nothing political about this, and it has nothing to do with the Obama Administration somehow trying to appease the Saudis. 

Despite his bar against asylum, Mr. Asseri is possibly eligible for Withholding of Removal and he is certainly eligible for relief under the UN Convention Against Torture (Saudi Arabia is known to torture and kill gay people).  The Asylum Office does not have the legal authority to grant these forms of relief; only an Immigration Judge has the power to do so.  From the Post’s article, it is unclear who (Asylum Officer or IJ) denied Mr. Asseri’s claim, but my guess is that he was denied by the Asylum Office.  If so, his case will be referred to an Immigration Court, where–as a high-profile gay man–he probably has a good chance of being granted Withholding of Removal or relief under the Torture Convention.

And now a word about the Jerusalem Post’s–and correspondent Benjamin Weinthal’s–sloppy reporting.  The Post is a right-wing newspaper that does not like President Obama.  From what I see on-line, Mr. Weinthal is a right-wing journalist who also is no fan of the President.  It is not surprising that those who dislike President Obama would make negative assumptions about him.  What is surprising is that supposedly legitimate news organizations/reporters would fail to actually research the asylum law, which clearly indicates that a persecutor is not entitled to asylum.  Instead, they assume that a lower-level decision-maker (an Asylum Officer or IJ) is ignoring the law and implementing Administration policy to appease Saudi Arabia.  The assumption is not only ridiculous, but intellectually dishonest.  Further, it is made in support of an ideological position.  The Post and Mr. Weinthal should be ashamed of themselves for their shoddy “journalism” and allowing their dislike for the President to trump their responsibility to tell the truth.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

About The Author

About The Author

Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.

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