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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied an asylum appeal from an Indian immigrant over objections that the man’s case wasn’t heard properly because no one could understand him. Mohinder Singh’s application for asylum was rife with shoddy evidence, and he failed to prove he was a member of a political organization called Shiromani Akali Dal, Judge Pamela Ann Rymer wrote in denying asylum. Singh illegally entered the United States in 1995 and applied for asylum after he was classified as an illegal immigrant. But Judge Michael Daly Hawkins argued in a dissent that the request should be revisited because Singh’s Punjabi language was improperly translated or incorrectly transcribed. Singh claimed Indian police beat him for his political views shortly before his father died, but provided no evidence of injuries in photos taken roughly a week after the alleged attack. Refugees persecuted in their home countries for religious, racial or political reasons can be granted asylum — but Rymer wrote that Singh couldn’t prove he was attacked or mistreated. “Absent credible testimony that he was persecuted, Singh failed to establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution,” Rymer wrote. Judge Jay Bybee concurred. But Hawkins said there’s no way to assess Singh’s credibility. “When this court received a record on appeal from which it is difficult or impossible to discern what actually went on in the proceeding, we can only assume that the [immigration judge] was similarly affected by either faulty transcription or bad translation, creating prejudice to the applicant,” Hawkins wrote. He pointed out that transcription of the hearing included in court documents was full of confusing statements and indiscernible remarks, and that no one could fully understand Singh’s story. “If the [immigration judge] cannot correct the record to reflect actual events in the hearing, then the faulty translation essentially amounts to a denial of judicial review guaranteed [by law],” Hawkins wrote. Transcripts of the hearing show that Singh seemed to give nonsensical answers to some questions. When asked how he helped set up functions honoring his family member’s death, Singh replied: “Used to work on Dec. 25 when I daily got together in the memory of the son of the guru, I used to do when I worked there.” Singh’s attorney, Alan Kaufman of San Francisco’s Kaufman Law Office, said problems with transcripts and faulty translations are increasingly common in asylum hearings. “I have to assume that the interpreters they use are qualified, but perhaps the recording of the testimony is faulty,” he said. “They tape-record it. If you rustle papers or move around, I’m sure that affects the quality.” Kaufman said he will request a rehearing in the case. Immigration officials in San Francisco were not available to comment on the case Thursday. The case is Mohinder Singh v. John Ashcroft, 04 C.D.O.S. 4080.

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