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CORNER:This judge forgot about common sense

THE COUNSELOR'S

September 09, 2006

One of the most important characteristics of a judge, any kind of judge, is common sense. I am fortunate in that I know a large number of judges who are blessed with this quality. Unfortunately, a certain Seattle immigration judge doesn't seem to have this all-important gift.

Thomas Childeres-Coria and his children fled to the United States after his family members were killed by political rivals and he was beaten up. Childeres-Coria, a Mexican man, is a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Party. He and his children headed here for cover after members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party killed four of their relatives.

In a decision almost beyond words, the Seattle immigration judge concluded that while the dead family members may well have been persecuted, Childeres-Coria and his children had not.

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This apparently means you have to be killed in order to qualify for political asylum, having those around you killed isn't enough.

Fortunately, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this amazingly incompetent ruling.

The three judges evaluated Childeres-Coria's testimony a little bit differently than did the immigration judge. They found that the Institutional Revolutionary Party drove Childeres-Coria into hiding, along with his family, because of the killings. The deceased included Childeres-Coria's brother.

The appellate court concluded that "no reasonable fact finder" could find that Childeres-Coria and his children had not suffered political persecution and therefore he could not be denied political asylum. By saying "no reasonable fact finder" could find this way, the appeals court is concluding that the Seattle immigration judge did not make the decision that a reasonable fact-finder, a reasonable man, a reasonable judge, a reasonable human-being, would make.

The appellate court decision was 3-0. The appellate court ruled that harassment of family members and physical abuse of Childeres-Coria qualifies as persecution. The court cited a case decided in 1996 in which a woman's stepfather had been permanently disabled by a bomb, her mother had been stripped of land, her brother and ex-husband had been jailed and her sister-in-law had been publicly beaten.

The court in that case found that the woman suffered from persecution and was entitled to political asylum. Good precedent.

It's nice to see that the woman in the 1996 case didn't have to be killed in order to have been deemed to have suffered persecution.

In the story I read, the Seattle immigration judge was not named and maybe that's for the good. Had he been named, I would in all likelihood be mentioning his name in capital letters and suggesting some sort of letter-writing campaign to have him removed from the bench. Fortunately, Childeres-Coria and his family are alive and well and they will be permitted to apply for political asylum; based on the Court of Appeals ruling, it looks like they will get it.


  • CHARLES J. UNGER is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Unger & Grover, and a therapist at the Foothill Centre for Personal and Family Growth. He may be reached at (818) 244-8694 or at www.charlieunger.com.

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