Friday, January 8, 2010

Asylum Fraud Conviction of Immigration Attorneys Calls Into Question Hundreds of AslyumCases

Sekhon Fraud Convictions May Lead To Re-Opening Hundreds of Former Clients' Asylum Claims:

Steve Maganini's insightful piece in the Sacramento Bee highlights the difficulties facing immigration judges in evaluating asylum claims. The article also notes that the San Francisco asylum office is interviewing each of the up to 700 former Sekhon clients to determine whether the government should seek to revoke their asylum.

For years, Sacramento's Sekhon & Sekhon law firm was renowned as a beacon of hope.

The firm, boasting a 95 percent success rate, helped more than 1,000 immigrants from a half-dozen nations get political asylum in the United States based on a fear of persecution.

Many of those new asylees now stand to be deported, because as many as 700 – coached by the firm's lawyers and interpreters – told phony stories of torture and rape to immigration judges and asylum officers.

Last June, following a three-month trial in Sacramento's federal court, three of the firm's lawyers and two interpreters were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government. Prosecutors call it one of the most brazen immigration scams in U.S. history.

In the wake of the Sekhon case, the San Francisco asylum office is interviewing each of the 700 people caught up in the scam to decide whether to revoke their asylum.

If the government ends up sending hundreds of cases back to immigration court, they're going to pose a tremendous challenge, Judge Marks said.

"These are going to be hotly contested cases as to whether or not the person who says he was prejudiced by an unethical lawyer deserves a second chance," Marks said. "We're going to have to work through them case by case, judge by judge, and it's the judge's job not to be cynical and burned out."

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