Rebecca Sharpless
Balancing Future Harms: The “Particularly Serious Crime” Bar to Refugee Protection
Response to Mary Holper, Redefining “Particularly Serious Crimes” in Refugee Law

The particularly serious crime (PSC) analysis in U.S. immigration law stands as a gatekeeper to protection from persecution abroad. Asylum applicants who meet the definition of a refugee are statutorily disqualified from protection and deported if they have been convicted of a crime considered “particularly serious.” Because the phrase is nowhere defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal appellate courts have interpreted it through case law. Despite the immense importance of the topic, the concept of a PSC is rarely examined in the immigration scholarly world, perhaps reflecting the prevalent view that refugee protection and crime-based deportation are sharply distinct areas of inquiry. But as Professor Mary Holper points out in Redefining “Particularly Serious Crimes” in Refugee Law, the PSC inquiry is a critical “corner of” immigration law that implicates both refugee and “crimmigration” law. The question Professor Holper poses is when, if ever, we should send a person back to a country where it is likely that she will be harmed or killed, solely because she has been convicted of a crime in the United States. In other words, when does the moral, legal, and international law prohibition against deporting someone to persecution or death give way to a concern about the safety of our own community?
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