6th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects Claim by Uzbekistan Citizen That Immigration Judge Should Have Appointed a Tajik Interpreter During Immigration Hearing
Uzbek Court Interpreter Services Provided for a Tajik-Speaking Plaintiff
Failure to appoint a legal interpreter for non-English-speaking plaintiffs occasionally comes up on appeal. Alamov v. Lynch, Case No. 16-3042, U.S. District Court for the 6th Circuit, involves an immigration matter in which the petitioner sought asylum in the United States and protection under the Convention Against Torture act. The petitioner was a citizen of Uzbekistan who came to the United States because he feared persecution in Uzbekistan due to his political and social affiliations. In 2012, he sought asylum in the U.S. on these grounds as well as on the basis of his Tajik ethnicity.
During a hearing before the Immigration Judge, Alamov testified that he was persecuted by his former supervisor at the ministry of commerce in Uzbekistan because he had refused to recommend that his supervisor be promoted.
Alamov testified that his supervisor turned on him and made work difficult for him after he failed to support his supervisor’s promotion. Specifically, Alamov claimed that his supervisor had him arrested at work and held by the police for three days, during which time he was allegedly hit in the ribs. Alamov resigned from his post in 1996 and opened up his own business which he later closed as a result of harassment from tax authorities and threats from the mafia, which Alamov alleged were orchestrated by his former supervisor.
Next, Alamov moved to South Korea and lived there for nine years. He then moved back to Uzbekistan briefly, got a new job, and came to the U.S. on a tourist visa. At the hearing, Alamov had an expert testify that Tajiks are discriminated against in Uzbekistan.
The immigration judge denied Alamov’s request for relief on the grounds that Alamov was not credible and his asylum application was untimely. The judge also found that not only had Alamov failed to corroborate any of his testimony, but that his persecution was based on an interpersonal dispute with his former supervisor and not on a protected ground. Alamov appealed the ruling on the grounds that he feared persecution in Uzbekistan because of his Tajik ethnicity. The Board of Immigration Appeals, like the immigration judge, also found that Alamov was not credible and that he did not demonstrate that he would be persecuted because of his ethnicity.
Alamov then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, arguing that his due process rights were violated because the Uzbek interpreter that had been provided for at his hearing was not effective and challenging the immigration judge’s finding that he was not credible.
Alamov did not allege that the interpreter was ineffective before the immigration judge or the board of immigration appeals. Rather, he informed the immigration judge that Uzbek was his best language and only told the board of immigration appeals that the immigration judge should have asked the interpreter whether Alamov had a Tajik accent or ordered a Tajik interpreter to determine Alamov’s fluency.
The 6th Circuit rejected these arguments and denied Alamov’s petition for review. Specifically, the court found that it lacked jurisdiction to review Alamov’s complaints about the Uzbek interpreter because he had failed to properly exhaust this claim before the immigration judge. The court cited Perkovic v. INS, 33 F.3d 615, 619 (6th Cir. 1994), in which the court held that “[u]nlike many contexts in which exhaustion of administrative remedies is a court-created doctrine, 8 U.S.C. 1252(d)(1) provides that federal courts are without jurisdiction to hear an immigration appeal when administrative remedies have not been met.” Id. The court also found that despite the fact that Alamov pointed to numerous passages in the transcript where there were allegedly problems with translation, that none of these passages unveiled any prejudice to Alamov which is required in order to demonstrate a violation of one’s due process. Id., citing Warner v. Ashcroft, 381 F.3d 534, 539 (6th Cir. 2004).
As to the immigration judge’s finding that Alamov lacked credibility, the 6th Circuit found that the lower court’s credibility finding was supported by “substantial evidence,” such as the fact that Alamov’s testimony was in conflict with his application for relief in several ways. Finally, as to Alamov’s appeal of the denial of his application for withholding of removal, the court found that Alamov’s had failed to prove that there was a “clear probability” that he would be persecuted because of his Tajik ethnicity if he returned to Uzbekistan. The court reasoned that Alamov had not had not reported any problems when he returned to Uzbekistan from Korea and the U.S. previously.
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This blog article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.
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