In order to be granted asylum in the United States, an applicant has to show that she has suffered persecution, or has a well-founded fear of persecution, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Under two different rationales, developed through case law, concealment of one’s religious views may constitute persecution in itself. A line of cases, beginning with the Seventh Circuit decision Muhur v. Ashcroft, stands for the proposition that an applicant may prove that she has a well-founded fear of persecution if the only way to avoid persecution would be to conceal her religious beliefs. Another rationale, first developed in the Third Circuit case Fatin v. INS, holds that an asylum applicant cannot show that concealment of her religion is persecution unless she shows that the act of concealment would be “profoundly abhorrent” to her. The second rationale thus creates a much higher standard for the applicant to meet.
This Note will argue that the forced concealment of one’s political opinion should be recognized as a form of persecution as well. In recognition of the fundamental purpose of asylum law, as well as the principles of international human rights and American democratic ideals, it is entirely appropriate and desirable to afford the same protection for political opinion applicants as religion applicants. This Note will consider the application of both the Muhur and Fatin rationales to political opinion, ultimately concluding that the approach developed in Muhur is the most suitable and reasonable—both for applicants and immigration policy in general.