By Kevin Penton
Monday, June 08, 2015
New York - The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to review an Eleventh Circuit decision that denied an asylum bid for a Somali man who claimed he would have to choose between death or becoming a terrorist upon deportation.
Ali Bashir Mohamed asserted that he fled Somalia in 2008 after the Islamist militant group al-Shabab murdered his brother and threatened to kill him if he did not join their cause, according to his April 27 petition for certiorari, which the court denied without comment.
Mohamed, born a member of the minority ethnic Garre clan, said his clan is considered by other groups not to be “real Somalis” and lacks political or military power, exposing its members to persecution and violence.
But in February 2014, judges on the Eleventh Circuit denied his petition for review, in part because they determined that even if he were persecuted because of his political beliefs, Mohamed hadn’t proved that al-Shabab was aware of those beliefs.
Mohamed argued to the Supreme Court that the appeals court’s decision is inconsistent with other courts' interpretation of the federal asylum statute and can’t be squared with high court precedent.
If allowed to stand, he argued the ruling would undercut U.S. foreign policy and could potentially add more recruits to the ranks of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and Boko Haram.
“[Mohamed] will be sent back to Somalia and inevitably be faced with a Hobson’s choice of facing the bullets of al-Shabab if he is faithful to his political beliefs and once again resists recruitment, or becoming a warrior for al-Shabab if he renounces his stated political beliefs and joins their radical, anti-American cause,” he wrote in the petition.
Mohamed was initially denied asylum after an immigration judge said that he hadn’t shown he had suffered persecution because he belonged to a particular social group. The decision was upheld by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Mohamed argued that the appeals court’s decision conflicts with the high court’s 1992 ruling in INS v. Elias-Zacarias, which set the framework for what an immigrant needs to show in order to secure asylum based on persecution for political beliefs.
Mohamed said that based on his brother’s murder, coupled with his own kidnapping, it is inconceivable that al-Shabab members didn’t at least suspect his political views differed from theirs.
Had Mohamed explicitly told his captors he wouldn’t join al-Shabab because of his political beliefs — which he said the appeals court seems to suggest was required for asylum — he would have been killed on the spot, the petition said.
An attorney for Mohamed did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Monday.
Mohamed is represented by L. Joseph Loveland Jr., Philip E. Holladay Jr. and Ramsey Prather of King & Spalding LLP and William E. Hoffmann Jr. of Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network.
The case is Mohamed v. Lynch, case number 14-1297, in the U.S. Supreme Court.