The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside a rule used by the 9th Circuit Court in California that presumed immigrants seeking asylum were telling the truth unless an immigration judge had made an “explicit” finding that they were not credible.
The justices in a 9-0 decision said this rule “cannot be reconciled” with law set by Congress that gives immigration judges the authority to weigh often conflicting accounts and to decide whether the applicant is entitled to asylum.
“For many years, and over many dissents, the 9th Circuit has proceeded on the view that, “[i]n the absence of an explicit adverse credibility finding [by the agency], we must assume that [the immigrant’s] factual contentions are true’ or at least credible,” wrote Justice Neil M. Gorsuch in Garland vs. Dai. He said this rule was not justified and gave immigrants the benefit of the doubt in close cases. “Congress has carefully circumscribed judicial review” of immigration decisions, he added.
Typically, an immigration judge hears from an immigrant seeking asylum and may also hear evidence from the government that calls into question the person’s account or reasons for seeking refuge in this country. The judge then decides whether the applicant is entitled to asylum, usually without formally concluding whether the applicant has been credible or deceitful.
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