Winning an asylum claim in the United States is a complicated process of proving not just that your life is at risk in your country of citizenship, but that it is at risk in particular ways, both systematic and individual. It’s a tricky needle to thread, and that is part of why asylum grant rates are notoriously low in the US, especially for people from Central America.
In court, the person seeking asylum has to provide enough evidence to convince the judge that their life will be at risk if returned to their home country. One key piece of this evidence is what are known as “Country Conditions Reports,” or detailed indexes that offer a primer in the situation on the ground in a given country.
In PLAS’s “Central Americans Seeking Asylum in the US” class last semester, Princeton students learned about the nuanced legal realm of asylum and then worked throughout the semester to put together reports like this for four specific, ongoing asylum cases. This entailed understanding the detailed nature of the person’s claim and then putting their research skills, linguistic repertoires, and cultural competence to work to dig up and catalog information that was specifically relevant to these cases.
Since the class ended, one of the four cases has been adjudicated. The attorney working on the case noted that the judge, in his favorable decision, cited the evidence the students had amassed. The students’ work was instrumental in this person winning withholding of removal. It is not an exaggeration to say that the students of LAS 324 quite literally contributed to saving a man’s life.