B.C. v. Att’y Gen. U.S.

The Third Circuit vacated a District Court’s denial of the petitioner’s application for asylum. The petitioner was a native of Cameroon and primarily spoke “Pidgin” English. He had only limited abilities in “Standard” English. He fled from Cameroon to the U.S. after allegedly facing persecution at the hands of his government. Soon after his arrival, the Department of Homeland Security began removal proceedings, and he applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). In a series of interviews and hearings, immigration officials either presumed he spoke “Standard” English or gave him an unhelpful, binary choice between “English or Spanish” or “English or French.” And despite persistent clues that he was less than fluent in “Standard” English, he was not provided an interpreter. This resulted in confusion and misunderstanding. Relying on purported “inconsistencies” in the statements the petitioner made without the help of an interpreter, the IJ denied the petitioner’s applications on the ground that he was not credible, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed. When presented with additional country conditions evidence, expert reports on the linguistic differences between “Standard” and “Pidgin” English, and the petitioner’s card showing membership in an allegedly persecuted group, the BIA denied his motion to reopen. The Third Circuit vacated the BIA’s decisions, holding that the petitioner was denied due process. The IJ did not conduct an adequate initial evaluation of whether an interpreter was needed and took no action even after the language barrier became apparent. Those failures resulted in a muddled record and appeared to have impermissibly colored the agency’s adverse credibility determination.

B.C.