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

Bad Airport Interviews No Basis for Discrediting Asylum Seeker

A Mongolian business man will get a second chance at asylum after the Seventh Circuit found that his credibility was inappropriately denied based on poorly conducted airport interviews. Gonchigsharav Nadmid had arrived in the United States in 2009, seeking asylum from alleged corruption and abuse by Mongolian politicians.

An immigration judge found Nadmid to lack credibility, however, based largely on airport interviews conducted on his arrival -- and in Russian. Since those interviews revealed a significant language barrier, the Seventh Circuit held, the immigration judge was wrong to rely on them to discount Nadmid's credibility.

Claims of Persecution

When Nadmid arrived in the U.S. in 2009 -- he had once overstayed a tourist visa and was voluntarily deported in 2006 -- he claimed to be victim of political corruption. Sort of. Initially, during an airport interview at Chicago O'Hare, he said he did not fear returning. That interview was conducted in Russian, which Nadmid had only minimal familiarity with.

Later that day, when interviewed in Mongolian, Nadmid claimed that he had been persecuted for speaking out against corruption, and was facing violence and extortion as a result. In his later asylum application, he provided documentation including a news article, medical reports, and detailed personal testimony.

Improper Reliance on Poorly Conducted Interviews

That wasn't enough for the immigration judge who heard his case. The IJ concluded that Nadmid did not qualify for asylum because he was not credible and hadn't corroborated his claim, citing the inconsistencies between his airport interviews and asylum testimony. Much of the IJ's decision rested on the Russian airport interview where Nadmid had attributed the threats to a personal dispute and had provided different dates for certain incidents.

An IJ may consider airport interviews in determining credibility, but those interviews must be reliable. Reliability is undermined when there is evidence that translation problems impeded understanding, the Seventh stated. Here, Nadmid had been interviewed by a Russian translator, though he had only minimal fluency in that language. The court found the transcript, which contained contradictory statements made in quick succession, to be evidence that Nadmid faced a significant language barrier.

Nadmid will now have his credibility reevaluated. Whether the court will grant him asylum, though, remains to be seen. The IJ not only questioned Nadmid's credibility, but whether a businessman suffering persecution for speaking out against corruption could qualify as a persecuted group at all -- a question the Seventh declined addressing at this stage.

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