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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2010;38(4):490-8.

Central American victims of gang violence as asylum seekers: the role of the forensic expert.

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Department of Psychiatry, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR 97329, USA.


Individuals fleeing persecution have the right to asylum. This most fundamental right was guaranteed by the 1951 United Nations (UN) Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and was implemented in the 1967 UN protocol regarding refugee status. The United States codified refugee protection and the procedures for asylum in the Refugee Act of 1980, which was made part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In claiming refugee status, the burden of proof rests with the asylum seeker and is often a daunting task, given language and cultural barriers, lack of knowledge about U.S. legal procedures, and the reality that oppressive states do not document their intentions to persecute dissidents. Forensic psychiatrists may be asked to provide mental health assessment in immigration cases. In this article, an example of a Central American man with a nontraditional but increasingly common request for asylum is presented, the asylum process is described, and the role of the forensic psychiatric expert before the immigration court is explored.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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