Pakistani Woman Wins Another Shot at Asylum

     (CN) – The 7th Circuit once again remanded the asylum case of a Pakistani Christian woman who claimed she faced a life of prostitution, violence and death if she refused an arranged marriage in Pakistan.

     In an earlier ruling, the Chicago-based court instructed the Board of Immigration Appeals to reconsider Roome Joseph’s asylum petition, because her parents had since threatened a forced marriage in Pakistan.
     Joseph claimed this constituted a “changed circumstance” that would allow the courts to reopen her case.
     The 28-year-old first came to the United States with her family in 1998. Though her parents and siblings eventually moved back to Pakistan, Joseph stayed. Her family has since fled Pakistan, first to Sri Lanka and then to Nepal.
     Joseph unsuccessfully sought asylum based on her Christian beliefs. She then discovered that her parents intended to marry her off to a man in Pakistan. If she refused, she said her family would disown her, forcing her to live the dangerous life of a single Christian woman in Pakistan. Women in these circumstances often faced a life of prostitution, violence and death, she claimed.
     On remand, the board again denied Joseph’s motion to reopen her asylum case. Joseph appealed, arguing that the board should have allowed her untimely motion based on a change in her personal circumstances – namely, the arranged marriage. Instead, a single member of the board had determined that the regulations covered only “a dramatic change in the political, religious or social situation.”
     This misinterpreted the regulation governing changed circumstances, the 7th Circuit ruled.
     “The plain language of the regulation does not require some kind of upheaval, such as the ascension of Pervez Musharraf to power in 1999 or the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, in order to show changed circumstances,” Judge Wood wrote.
     “The plain language of the regulation also does not restrict the concept of ‘changed circumstances’ to some kind of broad social or political change in the country, such as a new governing party, as opposed to a more personal or local change.”
     The court granted Joseph’s petition for review and again remanded, instructing the board to “consider all of Joseph’s arguments about the changed circumstances she faces in Pakistan.”

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