The man caught on the wiretap urged his immigrant client to fabricate a tragic past if he wanted asylum in the United States. To say that he was a victim of political repression in Albania. Or police brutality. Or even a blood feud.
“Maybe you had to leave because someone threatened to kill you,” the man suggested. “Because of something that your father did to somebody else or something to do with the land. You understand? That can be a way to get asylum.”
Often enough, it is. A shadowy industry dedicated to asylum fraud thrives in New York, where many of the country’s asylum claims are filed. Immigrants peddle personal accounts ripped from international headlines, con artists prey on the newly arrived and nonlawyers offer misguided advice.
West Africans claim genital mutilation or harm from the latest political violence. Albanians and immigrants from other Balkan countries claim they fear ethnic cleansing. Chinese invoke the one-child policy or persecution of Christians, Venezuelans cite their opposition to the ruling party, and Russians describe attacks against gay people. Iraqis and Afghans can cite fear of retaliation by Islamic extremists.