News

    Africa Asylum, Green Card Scams Hinder Process

    US officials are becoming more and more wary of people trying to game the green card lottery system.
    US officials are becoming more and more wary of people trying to game the green card lottery system.
    Nico Colombant

    Immigration lawyers and scholars say scams to game the asylum and visa lottery systems of the United States are clouding the process and hurting legitimate applicants. The trend is affecting Africans in particular.

    Last year, when Guinean national Nafissatou Diallo accused former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in a New York hotel, the controversial case also brought renewed attention to asylum scams.

    While Diallo’s past was examined, questions were raised over whether or not she had lied on her 2003 asylum application as a strategy to win permanent residence in the U.S.  

    Whatever the facts of her own case, scholars say the problem has been growing as more and more impoverished Africans try all means possible to gain entry into the United States in a bid to fulfill dreams of economic accomplishment.

    But lawyers, like California-based Jonathan Montag, say the high number of attempted scams has made it much more difficult for legitimate asylum seekers fleeing persecution.

    “We have an asylum system that tries to be fair and analyzes everybody’s situation, but because of the amount of fraud, burdens of proof are placed on asylum applicants that are often very hard for them to meet, so valid asylum claimants lose because they cannot provide the evidence that is now required,” he said.

    Montag said current priorities seem to be for the asylum process to be quicker rather than fairer.

    He said it is now set up as a demanding document-based system with an adversarial type of interview at the finish.

    "People, who it is obvious to me, have undergone very traumatic persecution are denied because of minor omissions, or confusion, or nervousness in a stressful situation and ultimately they face having to go back to their countries and being killed because they had a bad day of performance,” said Montag.

    Common scams include exaggerating claims and obtaining fake documents, some of them sold by corrupt government or political party officials in the home country.

    Even legitimate applicants are sometimes pressured by others to improve their chances with fabricated stories and documents.

    Jason Dzubow, a Washington-based immigration attorney, who also writes a blog called The Asylumist, says fraudsters from immigrant communities looking for payouts are behind many of the scams.

    “The source of the problem depends on the communities. So to me, one of the solutions to the problem is to find the people who are perpetrating the fraud and arrest them,” said Dzubow.

    In recent years, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the total number of persons granted asylum in the United States has been slightly above 20,000 per year.

    Asylum is granted to people already in the United States if they are found to be fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

    Those seeking refugee status apply from outside the country. Refugee scams include people with fake identities pretending they are displaced civil war refugees, even if they do not come from the country in conflict.

    The U.S. Diversity Immigrant Visa program, commonly known as the Green Card Lottery, also is prone to scams.  

    Entering is free, but for some winners, the cost of the follow-up interview, along with payments needed to get medical records and to translate documents can be beyond their means.

    Charles Piot, a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University, is working on a book studying trends surrounding the U.S. lottery in Togo.

    He said there is a rag-tag group of entrepreneurs who make money off the program, including arranging fake marriages so a lottery winner can pay for the subsequent interview fee and other costs.

    “The attempt to say arrange a marriage is simply a way to finance their getting selected,” said Piot.

    Sometimes the arranged marriage also comes with children and other relatives so they can also gain entry into the United States.

    But Piot said because of increased awareness of these types of scams, the situation can quickly backfire for the original lottery winner.

    “It is absolutely heart rending, especially when you see folks who were selected, who had no other choice, and they go to the embassy and they do not get through the interview. Their dreams are dashed. I know a young woman who was denied just a few months ago and she was just absolutely crushed. She had for several months the sort of uplift and fantasy, that she would come to the U.S., and this is her future, and all that is gone now because she failed the interview.”

    The lottery makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas annually to people from countries deemed to have low rates of immigration to the United States.

    According to recent statistics, some African countries have very high fraud levels. More than half of the entries from Sudan, Ghana and Ethiopia are estimated to be illegitimate and are disqualified during the selection process, while more than eight out of 10 from Nigeria are reported to be thrown out.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora