On December 14, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which has authority over immigration cases in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, issued a very favorable decision for asylum seekers: Addo v. Barr, No. 18-9560 (10th Cir. Dec. 14, 2020).
Burdens of proof are very important in immigration law and generally speaking, individuals who have suffered past persecution will qualify for asylum unless a judge determines that the asylum seeker can “reasonably relocate” in their country to avoid persecution. In Addo, the Tenth Circuit reminded immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), and not the asylum seeker, has the burden to “demonstrate that there is a specific area of the country where the risk of persecution to the respondent falls below the well-founded fear level.” (emphasis added). DHS cannot meet its burden simply by showing that an asylum seeker “attempted to relocate,” or without identifying and submitting evidence of a specific location where an asylum seeker can live safely.
Importantly, the Tenth Circuit also held that “social and cultural constraints” may prevent a noncitizen from reasonably relocating within his or her country, and that asylum law does not “require an applicant to stay one step ahead of persecution” to obtain relief in the United States.
Addo is a great case for asylum seekers to rely on even outside the Tenth Circuit, and is a key case to remember.