An immigration judge Wednesday rejected an asylum application from a Guinean man whose case has attracted international support and who says his life will be in danger if he is deported to his homeland.
The ruling against Malik Jarno followed an extraordinary, two-month asylum hearing in which Jarno’s team of pro bono lawyers clashed repeatedly with attorneys from the federal government. The government opposed the asylum application and disputed nearly every factual claim made by Jarno, including his name and age.
Immigration Judge Joan Churchill said it was the largest body of evidence she has ever seen in an asylum case.
Jarno’s lawyer, Christopher Nugent, said they will appeal Churchill’s ruling, whose contents were not made public.
“Certainly we’re confident that justice will prevail,” Nugent said.
Jarno arrived in the United States on a bogus passport at Dulles International Airport in January 2001. Jarno’s lawyers say their client was 16 when he arrived in the United States, and suffers mild mental retardation.
Jarno said his father was a well-known imam in Guinea and that the government killed his father because of his political activism. Other family members were also killed, Jarno said. He feared for his own life if he was returned to Guinea.
U.S. officials believed Jarno’s birth certificate was a forgery and placed him in a jail for nearly two years while his case wound its way through the system. Throughout much of 2001, his case was essentially lost in the system and he did not appear before an immigration judge.
A year ago, the Department of Homeland Security released Jarno and allowed him to stay at a group home in York, Pa., while his petition claim awaited a hearing. Jarno is still living there.
The government now has the option to seek his detention.
Roughly 70 members of Congress have asked Homeland Security to allow Jarno to stay in the United States. Human rights advocates say Jarno’s story is emblematic of the difficulties faced by thousands of children each year who enter the United States unaccompanied.
No one at the Department of Homeland Security could be reached after business hours Wednesday.