Skip to main content

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the use of video teleconferencing ("VTC") in this case violated the petitioner's right to examine evidence.

Ms. Rapheal was born in Liberia, where her father was an active supporter of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. When members of the opposition attacked and murdered her family, Rapheal escaped across the border to Nigeria, where she lived in a refugee camp. At the camp, she was assaulted and raped by guards, abuse which she said was tied to her family’s political association because they recognized her surname. Rapheal later married and had two children, but her husband and children were killed in a fire that was set at their home, which she said was in retribution for her husband’s political activities. Rapheal fled for Germany, and then entered the United States using a false passport.

The immigration judge found that Rapheal was not credible because she had earlier told immigration officers that her maiden name was Kocoker. Although Rapheal testified that she had never heard the name Kocoker before, the immigration judge cited an earlier statement signed by Rapheal listing her maiden name as Kocoker. However, because the hearing was conducted via VTC, Rapheal was unable to examine the statement. The Seventh Circuit remanded Rapheal’s case to the immigration court, finding that the client was denied her due process right to a reasonable opportunity to examine evidence used against her. “Rapheal’s review of the Immigration Report and her testimony after reviewing the Immigration Report has the potential for affecting the Immigration Judge’s view of her credibility and in turn the outcome of this case.  Accordingly, Rapheal is entitled to a new hearing,” wrote Judge Manion.  This was the first case in the nation to overturn a decision based on the use of VTC in immigration court hearings.

Ms. Rapheal was represented by National Immigrant Justice Center pro bono attorney Erin Ziaja of Dewey & LeBoeuf, LLP.