AILA Washington Asylum Committee
San Francisco Asylum Office Liaison Meeting
November 20, 2014
Questions and Answers
- Wait Time – Affirmative and UAC cases
Question: What is the current backlog for interviews for affirmative asylum applications?
Response: The priority is to get through UAC cases first, of which there are currently 60 pending and expecting another 20-30. Once the Asylum Office is caught up with those cases, starting around Christmas, scheduling priority will shift to doing backlogged cases. Instead of “last in, first out,” old cases will be picked up first. Starting around mid-January 2015, the Asylum Office will aim to have two officers up here every week. There are currently 1799 pending cases, with some dating back from the '90s. Thus, in January, the backlog may be 20 years if that is when the case was filed.
UAC cases will continue to be scheduled as soon as they come in. The Asylum Office is currently hoping to schedule interviews for the week of December 15th. There are 22 spots total. If you would like your UAC case to be scheduled for that week, please email Vincent Ferri at .
Question: Is the plan around UAC asylum interviews going to be to hold these interviews the last week of each month?
See above answer.
Question: Does it take longer to schedule interview for applicants of particular nationalities, such as Iraqis or Syrians?
Response: No, it should not. If anything, the Asylum Office may try to schedule them more quickly. It is just difficult to get officers up here for circuit ride.
- Wait Time – Defensive Cases
Question: What is the wait list for non-detained credible fear interviews?
Response: There are not a whole lot of CF overall. However there is a large number of cases (over 100) out in Yakima. The Asylum Office is trying a pilot with those cases (primarily mother with children) to have telephonic interviews at CIS, as there is a low show rate for those cases when scheduled in Seattle.
If you have an Eastern Washington case but would rather be scheduled for in-person in Tukwila, please submit your request to Director Bardini.
- Wait Time – Nunc Pro Tunc
Question: What is the backlog for nunc pro tunc filings?
Response: There are 24 cases pending. We try to do them all at the same time.
Member expressed that some cases have been pending for over a year.
Response: We will try to schedule them soon.
- Case Inquiry and Scheduling Requests
Question: For cases awaiting interview, is there a way to check where they are in the queue?
Response: You are welcome to write to Director Bardini or by email at .
If you have someone with exceptional circumstances, such as medical issues, please contact the Asylum Office with your request and supporting documents. We will try to insert them into the schedule.
Question: What is the best method to follow-up on a case that has been pending for 5 months post-interview?
You can write to Director Bardini. The Asylum Officers have a week post-interview to write up decisions before they go back on the affirmative interview schedule. While officers are expected to find time in-between to complete cases, some are better than others at time management. It may also be that the case is held up at headquarters.
Question: Would the office honor special requests/instructions for scheduling stated in cover letters?
Response: Scheduling is done by Nebraska, which does not read instructions or pleas for further scheduling out or expedite. The officers are tasked not to read anything, so such requests in cover letters will not do. Please send those requests directly to Director Bardini. If you get scheduled, you may request additional time, and we will reschedule (though this will stop the clock).
Question: Is there a way to expedite nunc pro tuncs for special circumstances (for example, when an applicant's disability SSI is running out)?
Response: Yes, please contact Director Bardini.
- Supplemental Filings
Question: When are supplemental materials due prior to the interview?
Response: Supplemental filings are due the Monday the week before the interview. Case files are shipped up here the Wednesday before the interview week. Therefore supplemental submissions should be received by Monday the week prior to the interview to allow us sufficient time to include the materials in the files before they are shipped out. Please timely submit supplemental materials. You may send them to the attention of Foua Jantac or Robert Birdsong.
If you arrive at the interview with, say, a really short 3-page document, the Asylum Officer may accept it. However if you arrive at the interview with many documents, the Asylum Officer will not take them and will reschedule the interview.
Question: What kind of child- and youth-appropriate training is being done with officers?
Response: The Asylum Office sometimes bring in guest speakers such as a psychiatrist on child-friendly interviewing techniques. Two of our trainers took trauma course offered by the University of Maryland. We have also brought in experts from the local trauma clinic to do training. We are always on the radar for relevant trainings.
Question: What country condition training or resources do Asylum Officers have access to?
Response: We bring in experts and conduct specific country condition training as it becomes more salient to the caseload. For example, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies came in and gave a talk on their work in Central America. Officers can do research on the internet. The DC office also has an unit that can do research. We have access to the Canadian database. Officers can look to the Department of State report, though they are not required to. They may also reference reports from Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Amnesty International, etc.
- UAC Issues
Question: For UAC asylum, does the AO maintain a separate clock than that of the Immigration Court?
Response: For UACs, our goal is to schedule and complete a case within 60 days, whereas the Immigration Court has 180 days.
Question: Should we be giving a heads-up to officers if we're planning to bring witnesses to a UAC asylum interview?
Response: Normally we would schedule four affirmative casea a day, but we only schedule two to three a day for UACs. We specifically build in more time for more allowances such as witnesses.
Question: With the new policy to administrative close UAC asylum cases, what happens after a negative determination?
Response: When there is a negative finding, the file and packet is sent to the Court. The case is supposed to be reopened.
- CFI/RFI Issues
Question: How is the AO handling CF interviews where there is interpreter issue (for example, for indigenous languages)?
Response: The Asylum Office will try to find interpreter first and reschedule. Headquarter instruction is to skip the interview and issue a NTA if the we cannot find an interpreter.
Question: Can we get a copy of the transcript and notes from CFI/RFI? There have been mixed experience where some applicants would receive the worksheet and summary, but not the full transcript and notes.
Response: The applicant should be provided a full packet. We will follow-up.
Question: Can the attorney be served a copy of the CFI/RFI packet? This is an issue particularly for attorneys who are based far from the detention center.
Response: We will follow-up.
Question: In cases where there is a prior deportation order, and we're trying to advocate for issuance of NTA instead of RF (withholding only), is there a best point to intervene before ICE can decide whether to reinstate?
Response: The Asylum Office has no jurisdiction if there is a prior order. You should direct your efforts to ICE. The Asylum Office has no involvement in that process, that is, until the case comes back to us as RF.
- NTA Issues
Question: How does a person get an AO denial referred to Immigration Court? My client received a denial that states that it will not be referred.
Response: If the person is in status, he/she will not be issued a NTA. You may write to or email the Asylum Office to show that they have fallen out of status. Regarding deadline for such request, as long as the applicant does not have a NTA, his/her case remains in the Asylum Office's jurisdiction, so we always have the case.
Question: When an NTA is issued after an asylum interview, how long does it take for the NTA to actually be filed? We've seen cases where it has been months since the issuance of the NTA, and they're still not in EOIR system.
Response: It should not take long at all. It used to be that ICE in Tacoma would have to go through counsel to file the NTA. Nowadays, ICE still does the filing, but does not have to go through counsel. The issue is also with EOIR in delay in processing NTAs.
Note that for those who underwent CFI, but NTA has not been filed yet, they can still file affirmatively.
- Nunc Pro Tunc Procedure
Question: What is the standard procedure for nunc pro tunc filings – go ahead and file I-485 and wait for RFE for asylum application, or file I-589 directly with AO and then adjust?
Response: The former (file the I-485) is the preferred method. The Asylum Office will continue to adjudicate nunc pro tunc cases.
San Francisco Asylum Office Contact Information
Director: Emilia Bardini
Deputy Director: Calton Yue
UAC Supervisor: Vincent Ferri
Supervisor: John Malona
Supervisor: Laurie Robinson
Supervisor: Paulette Sherry
Supervisor: Danielle Lehman
Supervisor: Kathy Galvin
Supervisor: Robert Garnet