U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Generalizations Aren't Enough: Asylum Applicants Need Specifics

Xing Zheng, a native of Fuzhou City in the Fujian Province of China, arrived in the U.S. in 1991 and filed an asylum application in 1992. The application was denied. In 1998, the Immigration and Naturalization Service charged him with removal.

Zheng has managed to remain in the U.S. for more than two decades while asserting various grounds for asylum, all of which were rejected. His most recent motion to reopen, filed in 2011, focused on the argument that he would be persecuted in China for his Christian beliefs. (This was a new argument based on his 2010 conversion while in immigration detention).

Both Zheng and the Board of Immigration Appeals made mistakes in the way they handled the 2011 motion, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the BIA's mistake was nothing more than a harmless error.

Here, the BIA ruled that Zheng failed to show that China's conditions has materially changed for Christians, but it didn't offer any reasoned explanation for its ruling.

The Seventh Circuit noted that the BIA should have given Zheng that reasoned explanation, but ultimately affirmed that BIA decision because Zheng's case wasn't a close call.

It turns out the Zheng's evidence was far too general, and failed to show "with any meaningful level of specificity" that the persecution against Zheng's practice of Christianity had materially worsened since 1999. For example, Zheng argued that conditions were worse for lawyers who defended Christians in China, but he didn't assert that he was a lawyer or that he would defend Christians. He claimed that conditions had become more dangerous for unregistered churches, but he didn't allege that he belonged to or would join an unregistered church.

Without those specific details, Zheng's case failed. Thus, the Seventh Circuit held that the BIA could reasonably conclude that Zheng's evidence was insufficient.

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