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Circuit court judges throughout the nation have sharply criticized the immigration courts’ failure to protect due process and uphold fundamental rights.  These decisions have played a significant role in the immigration debate. Gebreeyesus v. Gonzales is one of several asylum cases that the National Immigrant Justice Center has appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to demonstrate the need for review of lower cases by independent judges.
Ms. Gebreeyesus, along with her husband and father, participated in All Amhara People's Organization, a pro-democracy government opposition group devoted to protecting the Amharic people from government oppression. As a result of their political activities, all three were imprisoned and beaten by government authorities. Ms. Gebreeyesus's father and husband died in detention.  When she was released on bail, she fled to the United States.
Her asylum claim had previously been denied because the immigration judge found her claim of past persecution to be not credible. Ms. Gebreeyesus filed a motion to reopen to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) on the basis of materially changed country circumstances and submitted evidence that the situation in Ethiopia had deteriorated for members of her tribe and political affiliation, such that she would likely suffer future persecution. After the motion was denied by the BIA, Russo and Davis argued at the Seventh Circuit that the BIA had ignored Ms. Gebreeyesus's evidence of changed country conditions and abused its discretion by rejecting that evidence without explanation.
Judge Kanne, writing for a three-judge panel, found that the BIA failed to give a reasoned explanation for its finding that the client had not provided evidence of changed conditions, and that "the BIA's blanket rejection of [the client's] evidence calls into question whether it even considered that evidence."
Ms. Gebreeyesus was represented by pro bono attorneys from the Chicago office of Jones Day.
Read the Seventh Circuit opinion, 482 F.3d 952 (7th Cir. 2007).