‘Trivial’ inconsistencies shouldn’t doom asylum bid – 2nd Circ.
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- Court revives Sikh Indian activist’s asylum bid
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(Reuters) – The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday said minor inconsistencies between the testimony of a Sikh Indian activist who was beaten because of his political beliefs and other records in his case should not have led an immigration judge to reject his bid for asylum.
A unanimous 2nd Circuit panel said three issues with Amardeep Singh’s testimony, such as the leader of his political party failing to mention in a letter on Singh’s behalf that the two men had met after the beatings, could be easily explained and did not support a finding that Singh was not credible.
And a fourth problem noted by the judge – that Singh’s testimony was inconsistent with an affidavit from a municipal councilor in India who accompanied Singh to a police station after the first attack – was so trivial and irrelevant that it could not support an adverse credibility finding, the court said.
Singh’s lawyer, Amy Gell of Gell & Gell in New York, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the U.S. Department of Justice.
Singh entered the U.S. illegally in 2015 and was placed in deportation proceedings, according to the decision. He said he was an active member of Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar (SADA), an Indian political party that advocates for the rights of the country’s Sikh religious minority.
Singh in his asylum application claimed he had twice been attacked by members of rival political parties or the police. He reported the first attack to the police, but said he did not report the second beating because the police were involved.
An immigration judge in 2016 denied Singh’s application, finding that he was not credible. The judge cited four aspects of Singh’s testimony that she found to be inconsistent, including the omission in the letter from SADA’s leader and Singh’s failure to mention that the municipal councilor accompanied him to the police station.
The judge also said that while Singh testified that he had spoken to SADA’s leader after both attacks, those conversations were not mentioned in his written asylum application. And a lawyer Singh had met with in India had submitted a letter describing the first attack and then stating, using first-person: “second time, I was beaten up mercilessly by the members of” other political parties.
The Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the decision in 2017.
But the 2nd Circuit on Wednesday agreed with Singh that the issues cited by the judge were not the kind of inconsistencies that can undermine an asylum seeker’s credibility.
The lawyer’s use of the first-person “I” was clearly meant to restate what Singh had told him, the court found. And differences between Singh’s written application and testimony were not necessarily inconsistencies.
“An adverse credibility finding may (not) be based on an inconsistency so trivial and inconsequential that it has little or no tendency to support a reasonable inference that the petitioner has been untruthful,” Circuit Judge Pierre Leval wrote.
The panel included Circuit Judges Amalya Kearse and Susan Carney.
The case is Singh v. Garland, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 17-2368.
For Singh: Amy Gell of Gell & Gell
For the government: Brian Boynton of the U.S. Department of Justice