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Palestinian Christians |Qualify for Asylum

(CN) - A Palestinian Christian family that proved it was persecuted by Muslims in the West Bank is eligible for asylum, the Sixth Circuit ruled.

Nancy and Saed Marouf are Christian Palestinians who come from a small West Bank village about 30 minutes from Jerusalem.

Saed came to the U.S. in 2008, and Nancy and her daughter Naheda followed in 2009. The couple now has two more children who were born in the U.S.

The Maroufs filed for asylum in 2011, claiming that they were persecuted in the West Bank because they are Christian.

Saed claims he was beaten in 2006 by a group of Muslims after he escorted a group of young Christian women home. Nancy says Muslim men attempted to rape her in 2009, and Muslims fire-bombed her parents' home.

But an immigration judge questioned the credibility of their story, and ordered the couple removed to Israel and the occupied territories, citing inconsistencies in their testimony.

In particular, the judge was troubled by the discrepancy in dates given for the alleged attack on Saed, the discrepancy in how many persons attacked him, and a letter from Saed's mother stating that his nose had been broken in an "accident."

The ruling said the Maroufs failed to show they would be harmed if they returned to the West Bank.

The Sixth Circuit reversed the immigration judge's decision Wednesday.

"The conclusions of the Board (and the underlying reasoning it adopted from the immigration judge) in support of the adverse credibility determination against the Maroufs were not supported by substantial evidence; they rested on speculation and conjecture, and showed no sensitivity to language barriers and the use of translators, as our precedents instruct they must," Judge Gilbert Merritt said, writing for the three-judge panel.

The Cincinnati-based appeals court found the Maroufs' testimony "thorough and coherent," and the inconsistencies "minor" and in part attributable to the difficulty of translating Arabic to English.

It said that Nancy's inability to recall the exact year of Saed's beating was "trivial," and noted that she correctly recalled the month of the attack, and his subsequent surgery.

"The Maroufs offered ample evidence that the attack on Saed was premised on his being Christian in a predominantly Muslim society that persecuted Christians, and offered ample evidence of these premises," Merritt said.

The couple's story is corroborated by multiple articles, even on specifically about the persecution of Christians in Taybeh, and State Department reports.

"The Maroufs' evidence and testimony may not have been perfect, but perfection is not required and could not have been expected," Merritt said. "The passage of time, the language barrier and use of translators, and the effects of stress on memory may all have produced deficiencies in the Maroufs' case."

Therefore, the couple has established their eligibility for asylum, the court said. Whether the U.S. shall grant them asylum is up to the Attorney General's discretion.

However, the panel noted that deporting the Maroufs will leave their two American children orphans, or force the children to move to the West Bank where they will likely also face persecution.

"It is unclear why the Maroufs have been singled out for removal in light of the administration's policies," which aim to avoid deporting noncitizens if they have children born here, the opinion states.

The court cited "ongoing concern from judges, scholars, and other observers that adjudication by Immigration Judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals is alarmingly inconsistent."

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