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Guatemalan Qualifies |For Asylum Benefits

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The 9th Circuit held that a Guatemalan man is eligible for benefits under the ABC settlement, which remedied discriminatory treatment against the asylum applications of more than 300,000 Guatemalans and Salvadorans in the 1980s.

In 1990, a group of religious and refugee advocacy organizations settled the class action against the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the U.S. Department of State.

The settlement agreement provides that any class member who timely registers for benefits and applies for asylum by certain deadlines is entitled to an initial or a new asylum interview and adjudication.

Petitioner Hugo Leonel Chaly-Garcia filed his asylum application on Jan. 31, 1991, the day the ABC settlement was approved, to take advantage of the "new asylum program for the Guatemalans," he told an immigration officer.

Though the parties agreed that the petitioner is a member of the ABC class, defendants argued that he lost his eligibility for benefits by failing to mention the ABC agreement in his application.

But defendants' arguments are "misplaced," the circuit wrote, because the agreement requires a class member to ask for the benefits of the ABC settlement, and "nowhere does it state that an individual must refer to the agreement itself." See ruling.

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