In light of the upcoming holiday, it is important to take a moment and express thanks for things that bring us joy. Today, this blogger is thankful for unintentionally hilarious court opinions.
Adriano de Almeda Viegas is, according to the Fourth Circuit, a member of, and provided financial support to, a terrorist organization. He also entered the country using a forged French passport. It is unsurprising then that he is being sent back to Angola, his native country.
How did the Board of Immigration Appeals determine that he was a member of a terrorist organization? For four years, he donated 50 kwanzas per month to an organization called FLEC, the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda. He also hung posters advocating independence. He gave his monthly dues to a contact named Bonga Bonga.
You're probably wondering: what is a Kwanza, besides a holiday created in the 1960s? It's the Angolan currency, which is equivalent to a little less than a cent, per the current exchange rate. At 4 years and about 50 cents per month, that's about $24 and a few pro-independence posters worth of "material support" that kept Viegas from a grant of asylum.
According to the BIA, paying a membership fee is, by definition, material support. It doesn't matter that the amount paid per month wouldn't even buy a Coke nowadays.
Note: it costs $28 per month to save a starving African child. It costs 50 cents to support an alleged terrorist organization.
Of course, the government didn't haphazardly tag FLEC as a terrorist organization. According to the court, they enjoy such activities as blowing up property and possibly kidnapping people for ransom.
Viegas had an interesting counter-argument. FLEC is made up of a number of factions. Not all are engaged in violent activities. He also argued that he was unaware that FLEC, or his individual faction in FLEC, was engaged in terrorism.
When the government has shown that a person belonged to an organization, and that the organization is involved in terrorist activities, the burden of proof shifts to the asylum-seeker to show that they were unaware of the terrorist aims. Considering the violent reputation of FLEC throughout Angola, Viegas' bare assertions of ignorance didn't suffice.
- Viegas v. Holder (Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Real Recognize REAL: 4th Circuit Uses REAL ID Credibility Standard (FindLaw's Fourth Circuit Blog)
- Asylum Appeals Aren't Easy to Win in Fourth Circuit (FindLaw's Fourth Circuit Blog)