Could it be that when all is said and done, the Guinean woman who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in a Midtown hotel will find herself deported?
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.
It is a possibility, immigration lawyers say, though for now it is firmly planted in the realm of the theoretical. This sordid drama has many more acts to go. But as one lawyer familiar with comparable situations said to me, “She does have a potential problem.”
At issue is not what did or did not happen in mid-May at the Sofitel New York, where the woman worked as a housekeeper. We’re going much further back, to the middle of the last decade, when she applied for asylum in this country.
Investigators in the Strauss-Kahn case say she admitted to them that back then, she had lied to the federal authorities about why she fled Guinea. She said in her application that government soldiers destroyed her home and beat her and her husband. Not true, the investigators say she told them. Another story of hers, about having been gang raped? Also not so.
“She volunteered this information, and I think that has to count for something,” the woman’s lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, said Tuesday night. Maybe. Nonetheless, Mr. Thompson acknowledged that his client runs a risk that “she could be jammed up.”
Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Homeland Security Department, declined to discuss the case. But they are not famous for smiling on people who make their way into this country through fraud.
In an age when immigration is far from universally regarded as a virtue, you may be sure that some will want to see the housekeeper punished for having lied. No doubt, too, others will regard any attempt to deport her as harsh retribution — “a victim being revictimized,” in the words of Aileen Josephs, an immigration lawyer in West Palm Beach, Fla., who reached out to Mr. Thompson on Tuesday. She did so, she said, because she was upset about the way details of the asylum application had been leaked.
One thing is certain: Call it what you will — embellishment or maybe embroidery — many foreigners seeking refuge in the United States bend the truth about their backgrounds, sometimes to the breaking point. “I think there’s a lot of exaggerating going on,” said John A. Assadi, an immigration lawyer in Manhattan.
A prominent example was another Guinean immigrant, Amadou Diallo, the unarmed street peddler who was killed in a barrage of police fire in February 1999. Weeks later, it became known that Mr. Diallo had filed an asylum claim based on utter falsehoods, about how he was from Mauritania, a human-rights basket case. Mauritanian soldiers, he said, murdered his parents and imprisoned him and his uncle. Nothing of the sort had happened.
Those fabrications had nothing to do with the controversy caused by Mr. Diallo’s death. Still, immigration lawyers said at the time, whenever an asylum seeker in a high-profile situation is found to have lied, it can jeopardize the prospects of those with genuine claims of having escaped oppression. There is a similar risk now.
For immigrants, a lot may depend on the counsel they receive. Not everyone has high-quality representation. Mr. Assadi said that some people stretch the truth beyond elasticity simply because others from their homeland have recommended that they tell the American authorities this or that story. Often, he said, it is “unwarranted advice.”
With the woman in the Strauss-Kahn case, a great deal is unknown. Does she, for example, have a green card? It’s not clear. If she has one, several lawyers said, it would present an extra hurdle for the government in any effort to toss her out of the country.
Another question is how severely did she twist reality in her pursuit of asylum. Though Mr. Assadi has no first-hand knowledge of her case, he said it was always possible that “maybe she did have a claim and never articulated it properly.”
On that last point, everyone seems in agreement. Whatever her circumstances may have been, she sure didn’t articulate them properly.