Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program
By Emma Rekart, J.D. ’17
By the time asylum seekers enter the United States, they have already faced extraordinary struggles. They have fled their home countries because they feared for their safety or the safety of their families, and have come to America in the hopes of beginning a new life in a new country. Yet their ability to begin this new life can often depend on whether their story of suffering fits into the “refugee” definition laid out in the Immigration and Nationality Act:
“The term ‘refugee’ means (A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality … and who is unable or unwilling to return to … that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(42)(A) (2014).
This definition includes several complex phrases such as “persecution,” “on account of,” and “well-founded fear,” that have been interpreted by case law over the years. However, one phrase that has not garnered much attention until recently is the “any country” clause. This post will briefly discuss its meaning, as well as its implications for multiple nationality asylum seekers.
Why is the “any country” clause important?
For asylum seekers who are nationals of more than one country, a court’s interpretation of the “any country” clause could determine whether they are eligible for asylum in the United States. If the clause is read to mean “a/either country of nationality,” multiple nationality applicants would only need to show a well-founded fear of persecution in one country (likely their home country, which they are fleeing). However, if the phrase is read to mean “each/all countries of nationality,” they would need to show a well-founded fear of persecution not only in their home country, but also in the other country or countries of their nationality to which they may have limited ties. The “any country” clause is becoming more and more relevant because multiple nationality asylum seekers are now increasingly common. Technological developments and globalization have made cross-border travel more prevalent, increasing the number of children born with more than one nationality. In addition, many countries that previously did not recognize dual or multiple citizenships are beginning to amend their laws, allowing individuals to retain their nationalities despite acquiring nationalities in other countries.