Friday, July 8, 2011

Asylum applications in the context of the Strauss-Kahn case

     I've maintained throughout, and will continue to maintain, that no amount of indiscretion on the part of the plaintiff in the Strauss-Kahn case gave DSK the right to rape her. Indeed, to assume that her character deficiencies lesson the severity of her trauma is to perpetuate the myth of the "perfect victim" - that is, in order for someone's injury to be valid he or she (but overwhelmingly and regrettably "she") must be unblemished, an extremely oppressive and destructive stereotype.
     That said, it doesn't hurt to point out that the maid's dishonesty on her asylum application might in fact have been completely understandable, and a far cry away from the slyly self-serving gesture the media would have us subscribe to.
    Jesse Ellison, a writer for the website of MSNBC, makes a highly illustrative argument to this effect:

     "Those who, like . . . the woman at the center of the case against Strauss-Kahn, apply for asylum after entering the United States represent just one-tenth of 1 percent of the world's refugees, and for them, according to [Ms.] Arnold-Fernandez [legal expert] it's been, on average, 17 years since they left their home countries. Legal representation is scant, and language is often an issue. But most notably: judges are given tremendous leeway. Approval rates swing wildly from courtroom to courtroom. One court officer can approve 90 percent of the cases that come before the bench, and just down the hall another might decline nine of the 10 that come before him. It's a discretionary system—a 'refugee roulette'—that has contributed to myth-making within immigrant communities, where the stories that 'worked,' are passed around like lucky charms."

     Ms. Arnold-Fernandez, quoted above, goes on to say:

    "'When you're going into a legal proceeding that hasn't been explained to you and you don't have adequate or ethical legal counsel and you know that your life or death may hinge on what you say, the temptation to use  a story that worked for someone else is incredibly high . . . We have had clients whose real circumstances are  more compelling than the stories they have been advised by others to use. But there's such a lack of adequate legal advice…. And in the absence of accurate information and legal assistance, refugee communities may end up filling in the gaps with inaccurate information.'
    The temptation is so great, she says, that some asylum seekers have been exploited by people charging $100 a pop for stories that "work."

    A non-refugee passing judgment on how a refugee should behave is a lot like someone who is not a victim of sexual assault passing judgment on how a rapist should behave.
    In short, unacceptable.

Posted by:
Micah Bochart

Cross-posted on:
Companions of the Garden

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