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Thursday, April 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Perception as Spy May Keep Pakistani in U.S.

CHICAGO (CN) - A Pakistani who lied on immigration forms may deserve U.S. asylum because his history of public outreach has led some to label him as an undercover federal agent, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Since settling with his wife and children in Chicago in the early 1980s, Pakistan-born Sadruddin Noorani has involved himself in various political and community activities.

Noorani has served as the city's Asian American Coalition executive director, worked with Chicago politicians like Secretary of State Jesse White, former Gov. Jim Edgar, and U.S. Rep. Janice Schakowsky. He has also made regular appearances on Muja Ghazi's weekly talk radio show to address constitutional and immigration issues. The show typically draws around 50,000 Urdu-speaking listeners.

For over 20 years, Noorani volunteered as a community-based-organization liaison for the Department of Homeland Security's predecessor, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. In this role, he heavily promoted the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) for certain noncitizens. And for the last 10 years, Noorani has encouraged Pakistanis at community outreach programs to trust the FBI.

Noorani's political involvement has driven wedges among Pakistanis both in both the U.S. and Pakistan. Many have labeled him as an agent of Homeland Security or the FBI, while others say he is an undercover CIA agent. Some participants in NSEERS whom the U.S. has deported have also threatened Noorani with death.

In 2006, Noorani was indicted on various fraud counts in the Northern District of Illinois. He later pleaded guilty to making a false statement in his application to register permanent resident or adjust status.

Charged with removability on several grounds, Noorani applied for asylum and withholding of removal based on a fear of future persecution based on his membership in a social group - "perceived U.S. agents and spies."

The immigration judge (IJ) refused Noorani asylum after finding that the application should have been made within one year of Noorani's arrival to the U.S. As for withholding of removal, the judge said Noorani's fear of retribution was purely conjectural and unlikely.

Noorani took his case to the 7th Circuit after the Board of Immigration Appeals shot him down.

A three-judge panel granted Noorani's petition for review Wednesday after finding that Noorani had made a case for withholding.

"Here Noorani did introduce his social group arguments, contending that the IJ misapprehended that group as consisting not of Pakistanis collaborating or perceived to be collaborating with the U.S. government but of potential persecutors, including individual deportees whom Noorani had encouraged to participate in NSEERS," the unsigned ruling states. "The board erred by failing to consider these arguments."

The panel also slammed the immigration appeals board for ignoring evidence of a "pattern or practice of persecution" in Pakistan against U.S. collaborators.

"The board noted in a single cursory sentence in a footnote that 'because respondent has not established that he would be recognized as pro-American, he has not shown that he would be included in the group of persons identifiable with the U.S. or western policies,'" the judges wrote. "This statement glossed over Noorani's evidence of the threat faced by U.S. collaborators in Pakistan and did not address why the board concluded that Noorani could not belong to a social group of actual or perceived U.S. collaborators. Noorani had already testified credibly (according to the IJ) that he had worked for years with both DHS and the FBI, appeared in public with officials from both organizations, worn clothing bearing the FBI's insignia at events with that organization, and been described as an agent of the U.S. government by Pakistanis in Chicago. The board's passing reference to pattern or practice does not demonstrate that it actually exercised its discretion." (Parentheses in original.)

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