Since 1980, the Immigration and Nationality Act has provided two methods through which an otherwise deportable alien who claims that he will be persecuted if deported can seek relief. Section 243(h) of the Act, 8 U. S. C. § 1253(h), requires the Attorney General to withhold deportation of an alien who demonstrates that his "life or freedom would be threatened" on account of one of the listed factors if he is deported. In INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407 (1984), we held that to qualify for this entitlement to withholding of deportation, an alien must demonstrate that "it is more likely than not that the alien would be subject to persecution" in the country to which he would be returned. Id., at 429-430. The Refugee Act of 1980, 94 Stat. 102, also established a second type of broader relief. Section 208(a) of the Act, 8 U. S. C. § 1158(a), authorizes the Attorney General, in his discretion, to grant asylum to an alien who is unable or unwilling to return to his home 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." § 101(a)(42), 8 U. S. C. § 1101(a)(42).
In Stevic, we rejected an alien's contention that the § 208(a) "well-founded fear" standard governs applications for withholding of deportation under § 243(h).
Respondent is a 38-year-old Nicaraguan citizen who entered the United States in 1979 as a visitor. After she remained in the United States longer than permitted, and failed to take advantage of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) offer of voluntary departure, the INS commenced deportation proceedings against her. Respondent conceded that she was in the country illegally, but requested withholding of deportation pursuant to § 243(h) and asylum as a refugee pursuant to § 208(a).
To support her request under § 243(h), respondent attempted to show that if she were returned to Nicaragua her "life or freedom would be threatened" on account of her political views; to support her request under § 208(a), she attempted to show that she had a "well-founded fear of persecution" upon her return. The evidence supporting both claims related primarily to the activities of respondent's brother who had been tortured and imprisoned because of his political activities in Nicaragua. Both respondent and her brother testified that they believed the Sandinistas knew that the two of them had fled Nicaragua together and that even though she had not been active politically herself, she would be interrogated about her brother's whereabouts and
The Immigration Judge applied the same standard in evaluating respondent's claim for withholding of deportation under § 243(h) as he did in evaluating her application for asylum under § 208(a). He found that she had not established "a clear probability of persecution" and therefore was not entitled to either form of relief. App. to Pet. for Cert. 27a. On appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) agreed that respondent had "failed to establish that she would suffer persecution within the meaning of section 208(a) or 243(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act." Id., at 21a.
In the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, respondent did not challenge the BIA's decision that she was not entitled to withholding of deportation under § 243(h), but argued that she was eligible for consideration for asylum under § 208(a), and contended that the Immigration Judge and BIA erred in applying the "more likely than not" standard of proof from § 243(h) to her § 208(a) asylum claim. Instead, she asserted, they should have applied the "well-founded fear" standard, which she considered to be more generous. The court agreed. Relying on both the text and the structure of the Act, the court held that the "well-founded fear" standard which governs asylum proceedings is different, and in fact more generous, than the "clear probability" standard which governs withholding of deportation proceedings. 767 F.2d 1448, 1452-1453 (1985). Agreeing with the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the court interpreted the standard to require asylum applicants to present " `specific facts' through objective evidence to prove either past persecution or `good reason' to fear future persecution." Id., at 1453 (citing Carvajal-Munoz v. INS, 743 F.2d 562, 574 (CA7 1984)).
The Refugee Act of 1980 established a new statutory procedure for granting asylum to refugees.
Under this section, eligibility for asylum depends entirely on the Attorney General's determination that an alien is a
Thus, the "persecution or well-founded fear of persecution" standard governs the Attorney General's determination whether an alien is eligible for asylum.
In addition to establishing a statutory asylum process, the 1980 Act amended the withholding of deportation provision,
The Government argues, however, that even though the "well-founded fear" standard is applicable, there is no difference between it and the "would be threatened" test of § 243(h). It asks us to hold that the only way an applicant can demonstrate a "well-founded fear of persecution" is to prove a "clear probability of persecution." The statutory language does not lend itself to this reading.
To begin with, the language Congress used to describe the two standards conveys very different meanings. The "would be threatened" language of § 243(h) has no subjective component, but instead requires the alien to establish by objective evidence that it is more likely than not that he or she will be subject to persecution upon deportation.
That the fear must be "well-founded" does not alter the obvious focus on the individual's subjective beliefs, nor does it transform the standard into a "more likely than not" one. One can certainly have a well-founded fear of an event happening when there is less than a 50% chance of the occurrence taking place. As one leading authority has pointed out:
This ordinary and obvious meaning of the phrase is not to be lightly discounted. See Russello v. United States, 464 U.S. 16, 21 (1983); Ernst & Ernst v. Hochfelder, 425 U.S. 185, 198-199 (1976). With regard to this very statutory scheme, we have considered ourselves bound to " `assume "that the legislative purpose is expressed by the ordinary meaning of the words used." ' " INS v. Phinpathya, 464 U.S. 183, 189 (1984) (quoting American Tobacco Co. v. Patterson, 456 U.S. 63,
The different emphasis of the two standards which is so clear on the face of the statute is significantly highlighted by the fact that the same Congress simultaneously drafted § 208(a) and amended § 243(h). In doing so, Congress chose to maintain the old standard in § 243(h), but to incorporate a different standard in § 208(a). " `[W]here Congress includes particular language in one section of a statute but omits it in another section of the same Act, it is generally presumed that Congress acts intentionally and purposely in the disparate inclusion or exclusion.' " Russello v. United States, supra, at 23 (quoting United States v. Wong Kim Bo, 472 F.2d 720, 722 (CA5 1972)). The contrast between the language used in the two standards, and the fact that Congress used a new standard to define the term "refugee," certainly indicate that Congress intended the two standards to differ.
The message conveyed by the plain language of the Act is confirmed by an examination of its history.
The Practice Under ″ 203(a)(7).
The statutory definition of the term "refugee" contained in § 101(a)(42) applies to two asylum provisions within the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Section § 203(a)(7) of the pre-1980 statute authorized the Attorney General to permit "conditional entry" to a certain number of refugees fleeing from Communist-dominated areas or the Middle East "because of persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion." 79
At first glance one might conclude that this wide practice under the old § 203(a)(7), which spoke of "fear of persecution," is not probative of the meaning of the term "well-founded fear of persecution" which Congress adopted in 1980. Analysis of the legislative history, however, demonstrates that Congress added the "well-founded" language only because that was the language incorporated by the United Nations Protocol to which Congress sought to conform. See infra, at 436-437. Congress was told that the extant asylum procedure
The United Nations Protocol.
If one thing is clear from the legislative history of the new definition of "refugee," and indeed the entire 1980 Act, it is that one of Congress' primary purposes was to bring United States refugee law into conformance with the 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 19 U.S.T. 6223, T.I.A.S. No. 6577, to which the United States
Compare 19 U.S.T. 6225 with 19 U.S.T. 6261. Not only did Congress adopt the Protocol's standard in the statute, but there were also many statements indicating Congress' intent that the new statutory definition of "refugee" be interpreted in conformance with the Protocol's definition. The Conference Committee Report, for example, stated that the definition was accepted "with the understanding that it is based directly upon the language of the Protocol and it is intended that the provision be construed consistent with the Protocol." S. Rep. No. 96-590, p. 20 (1980); see also H. R. Rep., at 9. It is thus appropriate to consider what the phrase "well-founded fear" means with relation to the Protocol.
The origin of the Protocol's definition of "refugee" is found in the 1946 Constitution of the International Refugee Organization (IRO). See 62 Stat. 3037. The IRO defined a "refugee" as a person who had a "valid objection" to returning to his country of nationality, and specified that "fear, based on reasonable grounds of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, or political opinions . . ." constituted a valid objection. See IRO Constitution, Annex 1, Pt. 1, § C1(a)(i). The term was then incorporated in the United Nations Convention
In interpreting the Protocol's definition of "refugee" we are further guided by the analysis set forth in the Office of the
The High Commissioner's analysis of the United Nations' standard is consistent with our own examination of the origins of the Protocol's definition,
In Stevic, we dealt with the issue of withholding of deportation, or nonrefoulement, under § 243(h). This provision corresponds to Article 33.1 of the Convention.
Section 208(a), by contrast, is a discretionary mechanism which gives the Attorney General the authority to grant the broader relief of asylum to refugees. As such, it does not correspond to Article 33 of the Convention, but instead corresponds to Article 34. See Carvajal-Munoz, 743 F. 2d, at 574, n. 15. That Article provides that the contracting States "shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees. . . ." Like § 208(a), the provision is precatory; it does not require the implementing authority actually to grant asylum to all those who are eligible. Also like § 208(a), an alien must only show that he or she is a "refugee" to establish eligibility for relief. No further showing that he or she "would be" persecuted is required.
Thus, as made binding on the United States through the Protocol, Article 34 provides for a precatory, or discretionary, benefit for the entire class of persons who qualify as "refugees," whereas Article 33.1 provides an entitlement for the subcategory that "would be threatened" with persecution upon their return. This precise distinction between the broad class of refugees and the subcategory entitled to § 243(h) relief is plainly revealed in the 1980 Act. See Stevic, 467 U. S., at 428, n. 22.
Congress' Rejection of S. 643.
Both the House bill, H. R. 2816, 96th Cong., 1st Sess. (1979), and the Senate bill, S. 643, 96th Cong., 1st Sess. (1979), provided that an alien must be a "refugee" within the meaning of the Act in order to be eligible for asylum. The two bills differed, however, in that the House bill authorized the Attorney General, in his discretion, to grant asylum to any refugee, whereas the Senate bill imposed the additional
The INS makes two major arguments to support its contention that we should reverse the Court of Appeals and hold that an applicant can only show a "well-founded fear of persecution" by proving that it is more likely than not that he or she will be persecuted. We reject both of these arguments: the first ignores the structure of the Act; the second misconstrues the federal courts' role in reviewing an agency's statutory construction.
First, the INS repeatedly argues that the structure of the Act dictates a decision in its favor, since it is anomalous for § 208(a), which affords greater benefits than § 243(h), see n. 6, supra, to have a less stringent standard of eligibility. This argument sorely fails because it does not take into account the fact that an alien who satisfies the applicable standard under § 208(a) does not have a right to remain in the United States; he or she is simply eligible for asylum, if the Attorney General, in his discretion, chooses to grant it. An alien satisfying § 243(h)'s stricter standard, in contrast, is automatically entitled to withholding of deportation.
There is no basis for the INS's assertion that the discretionary/mandatory distinction has no practical significance. Decisions such as Matter of Salim, supra, and Matter of Shirdel, supra, clearly demonstrate the practical import of the distinction. Moreover, the 1980 Act amended § 243(h) for the very purpose of changing it from a discretionary to a mandatory provision. See supra, at 428-429. Congress surely considered the discretionary/mandatory distinction important then, as it did with respect to the very definition of "refugee" involved here. The House Report provides:
This vesting of discretion in the Attorney General is quite typical in the immigration area, see, e. g., INS v. Jong Ha Wang, 450 U.S. 139 (1981). If anything is anomalous, it is that the Government now asks us to restrict its discretion to a narrow class of aliens. Congress has assigned to the Attorney General and his delegates the task of making these hard individualized decisions; although Congress could have crafted a narrower definition, it chose to authorize the Attorney
The INS's second principal argument in support of the proposition that the "well-founded fear" and "clear probability" standard are equivalent is that the BIA so construes the two standards. The INS argues that the BIA's construction of the Refugee Act of 1980 is entitled to substantial deference, even if we conclude that the Court of Appeals' reading of the statutes is more in keeping with Congress' intent.
The narrow legal question whether the two standards are the same is, of course, quite different from the question of interpretation that arises in each case in which the agency is required to apply either or both standards to a particular set of facts. There is obviously some ambiguity in a term like "well-founded fear" which can only be given concrete meaning through a process of case-by-case adjudication. In that process of filling " `any gap left, implicitly or explicitly, by Congress,' " the courts must respect the interpretation of the agency to which Congress has delegated the responsibility for administering the statutory program. See Chevron, supra, at 843, quoting Morton v. Ruiz, 415 U.S. 199, 231 (1974). But our task today is much narrower, and is well within the province of the Judiciary. We do not attempt to set forth a detailed description of how the "well-founded fear" test should be applied.
Deportation is always a harsh measure; it is all the more replete with danger when the alien makes a claim that he or she will be subject to death or persecution if forced to return to his or her home country. In enacting the Refugee Act of 1980 Congress sought to "give the United States sufficient flexibility to respond to situations involving political or religious dissidents and detainees throughout the world." H. R. Rep., at 9. Our holding today increases that flexibility by rejecting the Government's contention that the Attorney General may not even consider granting asylum to one who
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
I join the Court's opinion and judgment. Thus, I accept its "narrow" conclusion that "the Immigration Judge and the BIA were incorrect in holding that the [standards for withholding of deportation and granting asylum] are identical." Ante, at 448. In accordance with this holding, the Court eschews any attempt to give substance to the term "well-founded fear" and leaves that task to the "process of case-by-case adjudication" by the INS, the agency in charge of administering the immigration laws. Ibid. I write separately and briefly to emphasize my understanding that, in its opinion, the court has directed the INS to the appropriate sources from which the agency should derive the meaning of the "well-founded fear" standard, a meaning that will be refined in later adjudication. This emphasis, I believe, is particularly needed where, as here, an agency's previous interpretation of the statutory term is so strikingly contrary to plain language and legislative history.
Thus, as the Court observes, ante, at 430-431, the very language of the term "well-founded fear" demands a particular type of analysis — an examination of the subjective feelings of an applicant for asylum coupled with an inquiry into the objective nature of the articulated reasons for the fear. Moreover, in describing how, in the 1980 Act, Congress was attempting to bring this country's refugee laws into conformity with the United Nations Protocol, the Court notes that the Act's definition of refugee, wherein the "well-founded fear" term appears, ante, at 427, tracks the language of the
Finally, in my view, the well-reasoned opinions of the Courts of Appeals, that almost uniformly have rejected the INS's misreading of statutory language and legislative history, provide an admirable example of the very "case-by-case adjudication' needed for the development of the standard. Although the Court refers to a conflict among these courts, see ante, at 426, n. 2, with one exception, see ibid., all the Courts of Appeals that have addressed this question have concluded that the standards for withholding of deportation and granting asylum are not the same. Rather, differences in opinion have arisen as to the precise formulation of the "well-founded fear" standard.
JUSTICE SCALIA, concurring in the judgment.
I agree with the Court that the plain meaning of "well-founded fear" and the structure of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act) clearly demonstrate that the "well-founded fear" standard and the "clear probability" standard are not equivalent. I concur in the judgment rather than join the Court's opinion, however, for two reasons. First, despite having reached the above conclusion, the Court undertakes an exhaustive investigation of the legislative history of the Act. Ante, at 432-443. It attempts to justify this inquiry by relying upon the doctrine that if the legislative history of an enactment reveals a " `clearly expressed legislative intention' contrary to [the enactment's] language," the Court is required to "question the strong presumption that Congress expresses its intent through the language it chooses." Ante, at 432, n. 12. Although it is true that the Court in recent times has expressed approval of this doctrine, that is to my mind an ill-advised deviation from the venerable principle that if the language of a statute is clear, that language must be given effect — at least in the absence of a patent absurdity. See, e. g., United States v. Wiltberger, 5 Wheat. 76, 95-96 (1820) (opinion of Marshall, C. J.); United States v. Hartwell, 6 Wall. 385 (1868); Bate Refrigerating Co. v. Sulzberger, 157 U.S. 1, 34 (1895) (opinion of Harlan, J.); Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 485 (1917); Packard Motor Car Co. v. NLRB, 330 U.S. 485, 492 (1947) (opinion of Jackson, J.); United States v. Sullivan, 332 U.S. 689, 693 (1948) (opinion of Black, J.); Unexcelled Chemical Corp. v. United States, 345 U.S. 59, 64 (1953) (opinion of Douglas, J.). Judges interpret laws rather than reconstruct
Even by its own lights, however, the Court's explication of the legislative history of the Act is excessive. The INS makes a number of specific arguments based upon the legislative history of the Act. It would have sufficed, it seems to me, for the Court to determine whether these specific arguments establish a "clearly expressed legislative intent" that the two standards be equivalent. I think it obvious that they do not, as apparently does the Court. That being so, there is simply no need for the lengthy effort to ascertain the import of the entire legislative history. And that effort is objectionable not only because it is gratuitous. I am concerned that it will be interpreted to suggest that similarly exhaustive analyses are generally appropriate (or, worse yet, required) in cases where the language of the enactment at issue is clear. I also fear that in this case the Court's conduct of that inquiry will be interpreted as a betrayal of its assurance that it does "not attempt to set forth a detailed description of how the well-founded fear test should be applied," ante, at 448. See, e. g., ante, at 438-440 (appearing to endorse a particular interpretation of "well-founded fear").
I am far more troubled, however, by the Court's discussion of the question whether the INS's interpretation of "well-founded fear" is entitled to deference. Since the Court quite rightly concludes that the INS's interpretation is clearly inconsistent with the plain meaning of that phrase and the structure of the Act, see ante, at 431-432, 449, and n. 12, there is simply no need and thus no justification for a discussion of whether the interpretation is entitled to deference. See Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842-843 (1984) ("If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter; for the court, as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress" (footnote omitted)). Even more
The Court also implies that courts may substitute their interpretation of a statute for that of an agency whenever they face "a pure question of statutory construction for the courts to decide," ante, at 446, rather than a "question of interpretation [in which] the agency is required to apply [a legal standard] to a particular set of facts," ante, at 448.
In my view, the Court badly misinterprets Chevron. More fundamentally, however, I neither share nor understand the Court's eagerness to refashion important principles of administrative law in a case in which such questions are completely unnecessary to the decision and have not been fully briefed by the parties.
I concur in the judgment.
JUSTICE POWELL, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE WHITE join, dissenting.
Many people come to our country because they fear persecution in their homeland. Congress has provided two forms of relief for such people: asylum, see Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, § 208(a), as added by 94 Stat. 105, 8 U. S. C. § 1158(a); and withholding of deportation, see 66 Stat. 212, § 243(h), as amended, 94 Stat. 107, 8 U. S. C. § 1253(h). The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has concluded that there is no practical distinction between the objective proofs an alien must submit to be eligible for these two forms of relief. The Court rejects this conclusion. Because I believe the BIA's interpretation of the statute is reasonable, I dissent.
The Court's opinion seems to assume that the BIA has adopted a rigorous mathematical approach to asylum cases, requiring aliens to demonstrate an objectively quantifiable risk of persecution in their homeland that is more than 50%. The Court then argues that such a position is inconsistent with the language and history of the Act. But this has never been the BIA's position. Thus, it is useful to examine the BIA's approach in some detail before evaluating the Court's
The BIA's interpretation of the statutory term "well-founded fear" appears in Matter of Acosta, Interim Decision No. 2986 (Mar. 1, 1985).
Once the immigration judge has decided what historical facts the applicant has demonstrated, he then decides whether those facts meet the definition of "refugee" set forth in § 101(a)(42)(A) of the Act, 8 U. S. C. § 1101(a)(42)(A). The major point of contention in this case concerns that section's requirement that the fear be "well-founded."
The Acosta Board went on to caution:
Finally, the Acosta opinion compared this "realistic likelihood" standard to the "clear probability" standard applied to
In sum, contrary to the Court's apparent conclusion, the BIA does not contend that both the "well-founded fear" standard and the "clear probability" standard require proof of a 51% chance that the alien will suffer persecution if he is returned to his homeland. The BIA plainly eschews analysis resting on mathematical probabilities. Rather, the BIA has adopted a four-part test requiring proof of facts that demonstrate a realistic likelihood of persecution actually occurring. The heart of the Acosta decision is the BIA's empirical conclusion, based on its experience in adjudicating asylum applications, that if the facts establish such a basis for an alien's
In Part II of its opinion, the Court examines the language of the Act. Section 243(h) provides that the Attorney General shall grant withholding of deportation to any country where "such alien's life or freedom would be threatened." 8 U. S. C. § 1253(h). Section 208(a) provides that the Attorney General has discretion to grant asylum "if the Attorney General determines that such alien is a refugee." § 1158(a). The crucial language of § 101(a)(42)(A) of the Act, as added by 94 Stat. 102, defines a refugee as a person who has "a well-founded fear of persecution." § 1101(a)(42)(A). In the Court's view, this language all but disposes of the case. Ante, at 427-432.
With respect to the issue presented by this case, I find the language far more ambiguous than the Court does. Respondent contends that the BIA has fallen into error by equating the objective showings required under §§ 208(a) and 243(h). The Court notes that the language of § 208(a) differs from the language of § 243(h) in that it contemplates a partially subjective inquiry. From this premise, the Court moves with little explanation to the conclusion that the objective inquiries under the two sections necessarily are different.
In reaching this conclusion, the Court gives short shrift to the words "well-founded," that clearly require some objective basis for the alien's fear. The critical question presented by this case is whether the objective basis required for a fear of persecution to be "well-founded" differs in practice from the objective basis required for there to be a "clear probability" of persecution. Because both standards necessarily contemplate some objective basis, I cannot agree with the Court's
The Court ignores the practical realities recognized by the expert agency and instead concentrates on semantic niceties. It posits a hypothetical situation in which a government sought to execute every 10th adult male. In its view, fear of such executions would be "well-founded" even if persecution of a particular individual would not be "more likely than not" to occur. See ante, at 431. But this hypothetical is irrelevant; it addresses a mathematically demanding interpretation of "well-founded" that has no relation to the BIA's actual treatment of asylum applications. Nor does it address the validity of the BIA's judgment that evidence presenting this distinction will be encountered infrequently, if ever.
Common sense and human experience support the BIA's conclusion. Governments rarely persecute people by the numbers. It is highly unlikely that the evidence presented at an asylum or withholding of deportation hearing will demonstrate the mathematically specific risk of persecution posited by the Court's hypothetical. Taking account of the
In sum, the words Congress has chosen — "well-founded" fear — are ambiguous. They contemplate some objective basis without specifying a particular evidentiary threshold. There is no reason to suppose this formulation is inconsistent with the analysis set forth in Acosta. The BIA has concluded that a fear is not "well-founded" unless the fear has an objective basis indicating that there is a "realistic likelihood" that persecution would occur. Based on the text of the Act alone, I cannot conclude that this conclusion is unreasonable.
The Court bolsters its interpretation of the language of the Act by reference to three parts of the legislative history. A closer examination of these materials demonstrates that each of them is ambiguous. Nothing the Court relies on provides a positive basis for arguing that there is a material difference between the two standards.
First, the Court cites legislative history indicating that Congress wished to preserve some existing standard when it placed the words "well-founded fear" in the Act. The Court concludes that the standard Congress intended to preserve was the BIA's practice under the old § 203(a)(7), 79 Stat. 913 (1965). That section authorized the Attorney General to grant conditional entry to aliens fleeing from Communist countries or the Middle East, so long as they established a "fear of persecution." The Court argues that Congress chose the words "well-founded fear" to "preserve" as an asylum standard the prior interpretation of the word "fear" in the standard for conditional entry.
In contrast, the United States argues that Congress chose the words "well-founded fear" to preserve the Attorney General's regulations governing applications for asylum by aliens in the United States.
Moreover, the legislative history makes it clear that Congress was referring to the regulations rather than to § 203(a)(7). The Senate Report states that the bill "improv[es]
In my view, the legislative history indicates that Congress' choice of the words "well-founded" fear as the standard of eligibility for asylum was intended to carry forward the practice of the Attorney General in adjudicating asylum applications. The Attorney General had concluded that the standard for asylum was substantially identical to the standard for withholding of deportation. His decision to interpret the language of § 208 in the same way is entirely reasonable.
Second, the Court relies on materials interpreting the United Nations Protocol. Ante, at 437-440. For several reasons, I find these materials to be only marginally relevant.
In any event, the materials discussed by the Court shed little or no light on the question presented by this case. None of them states that the burden of proof for nonrefoulement under Article 33.1 of the United Nations Protocol of 1967 — a remedy essentially identical to withholding of deportation under § 243(h) of the Act — is higher than the burden of proof for asylum under Article 34. The only thing the materials tend to establish is that a mathematical approach to the likelihood of persecution in asylum cases is arguably inconsistent with the sense of the drafters of the Protocol. The BIA has declined to adopt such an approach. See supra, at 457-459. It is simply irrelevant that this approach might be inconsistent with the views of commentators on the Protocol.
Finally, the Court places great weight on the changes in the Act made by the Conference Committee. The Court notes that the Senate bill, S. 643, authorized the Attorney General to grant asylum if the applicant "is a refugee within the meaning of section 101(a)(42)(A) and his deportation or return would be prohibited under section 243(h) of this Act." S. Rep. No. 96-256, at 26. The Court conjectures that this language "indicates that the Senate recognized that
Neither the premise of the Court nor its conclusion is justified. The language of the Senate bill does not demonstrate that the Senate recognized a difference between the two standards. The Senate just as easily could have included the language to ensure that the Attorney General held to his position that there was no difference between the standards. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the changes made by the Conference Committee reflected a considered rejection of this portion of the Senate's definition of refugee. Rather, the conference Committee Report demonstrates that the Conference thought both bills adopted the same general definition of refugee — the U. N. definition. See H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 96-781, p. 19 (1980). The differences the Conference saw between the bills related to treatment of refugees still in their homeland, and to refugees who have been "firmly resettled" in another country. See ibid.
In short, I see no reason to believe that the minor differences in wording between the Senate bill and the Act as passed reflect a rejection of the position that there is no significant difference between the two standards.
Even if I agreed with the Court's conclusion that there is a significant difference between the standards for asylum and
Respondent's claim for asylum rested solely on testimony that her brother had experienced difficulties with the authorities in Nicaragua. The Immigration Judge rejected respondent's claim because he found "no evidence of any substance in the record other than her brother's claim to asylum." App. to Pet. for Cert. 27a. He further found:
The absence of such evidence was particularly probative, because many of the other members of respondent's family — her parents, two sisters, her brother's wife, and her brother's
On appeal, the BIA affirmed. It decided this case after the passage of the Act, but before its opinion in Acosta. At that time, the BIA was confronted with a number of conflicting decisions by Courts of Appeals as to the correct standard for evaluating asylum applications. The BIA noted three different formulations of the "well-founded fear" standard: the "clear probability" test, see Rejaie v. INS, 691 F.2d 139 (CA3 1982); the "good reason" test, see Stevic v. Sava, 678 F.2d 401 (CA2 1982), rev'd on other grounds, INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407 (1984); and the "realistic likelihood" test the BIA had adopted in Matter of Dunar, 14 I. & N. Dec. 310 (1973). App. to Pet. for Cert. 21a. See supra, at 456-459 (discussing Acosta). Reviewing the evidence respondent had submitted to the Immigration Judge, the BIA concluded that respondent could not obtain relief under any of the standards. The BIA focused especially on the fact that respondent
Respondent filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Without examining either the factual or legal basis for the BIA's decision, the court granted the petition, reversed the BIA's decision, and remanded the application to the BIA for further consideration.
This statement is simply inconsistent with the BIA's opinion. As I have explained, the BIA acknowledged the conflicting decisions of the various Courts of Appeals and explicitly tested the application under three different standards. The least burdensome of these — the "good reason" standard — is identical to the court's statement quoted supra this page. The Court of Appeals completely ignored the words in which the BIA framed its decision. It failed to examine the factual findings on which the decision rested. At least in this case, it appears that the Court of Appeals, and not the BIA, has misunderstood the proper relation between courts and agencies. That court properly could have considered whether substantial evidence supported the BIA's conclusion that respondent failed to demonstrate a "good reason" to fear persecution, but it should not have assumed that
In my view, the Court misconstrues the Act and misreads its legislative history. Moreover, neither this Court nor the Court of Appeals has identified an error in the decision of the BIA in this case. Neither court has examined the factual findings on which the decision rested, or the legal standard the BIA applied to these facts. I would reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.
The Third Circuit is the only Circuit to decide since our decision in INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407 (1984), that the standards remain identical. It reached this conclusion, however, not because post-Stevic analysis compelled it, but because it considered itself bound by its pre-Stevic decision in Rejaie v. INS, 691 F.2d 139 (1982). See Sankar, supra, at 533.
The record indicates that respondent may well be eligible for eventual adjustment of status if she makes a timely application after the Attorney General establishes the procedures for administering Title II. It would therefore appear that respondent might become a permanent resident by invoking the new procedures even if she is unsuccessful in her pending request for asylum. Nonetheless the possibility of this relief does not render her request for asylum moot. First, the legalization provisions of the 1986 Act are not self-executing, and the procedures for administering the new Act are not yet in place. Even if the benefits were identical, therefore, there is no way of knowing at this time whether respondent will be able to satisfy whatever burden is placed upon her to demonstrate eligibility. Cf. INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 937 (1983). Second, respondent might be able to obtain permanent residence through the asylum procedure sooner than through the legalization program; if she satisfies certain conditions, she may become eligible for adjustment of status to that of permanent resident 12 months after a grant of asylum. See 8 CFR §§ 209.1-209.2 (1986). Under Title II of the new Act, by contrast, there is an 18-month waiting period. In light of these factors, we are persuaded that the controversy is not moot.
Nor do we believe that the new Act makes it appropriate to exercise our discretion to dismiss the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. The question presented in this case will arise, and has arisen, in hosts of other asylum proceedings brought by aliens who arrived in the United States after January 1, 1982, or who are seeking entry as refugees from other countries. The importance of the legal issue makes it appropriate for us to address the merits now.
"Section 243(h) relief is `country specific' and accordingly, the applicant here would be presently protected from deportation to Afghanistan pursuant to section 243(h). But that section would not prevent his exclusion and deportation to Pakistan or any other hospitable country under section 237(a) if that country will accept him. In contrast, asylum is a greater form of relief. When granted asylum the alien may be eligible for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident pursuant to section 209 of the Act, 8 U. S. C. 1159, after residing here one year, subject to numerical limitations and the applicable regulations." Matter of Salim, 18 I. & N. Dec. 311, 315 (1982).
See also Matter of Lam, 18 I. & N. Dec. 15, 18 (BIA 1981).
The argument that Congress intended to adhere to the standard used in the informal parole proceedings cannot be squared with Congress' use of an entirely different formulation of the standard for defining "refugee" — one much closer to § 203(a)(7), than to § 243(h) (the statute which was the focus of the standard developed in the 1980 regulations). Moreover, to the extent that Congress was ambiguous as to which practice it sought to incorporate, it is far more reasonable to conclude that it sought to continue the practice under § 203(a)(7), a statutory provision, than to adhere to the informal parole practices of the Attorney General, a matter in which Congress had no involvement.
The Government relies on the following passage from the Senate Report to support its contention that Congress sought to incorporate the standard from the parole proceedings — not from § 203(a)(7):
"[T]he bill establishes an asylum provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act for the first time by improving and clarifying the procedures for determining asylum claims filed by aliens who are physically present in the United States. The substantive standard is not changed." S. Rep., at 9.
The bill that the Senate Committee was discussing indeed made no change in the standards to be applied to applications for asylum from aliens within the United States; the Senate version explicitly incorporated the same standard as used in § 243(h). See infra, at 441-442. But the Senate version was rejected by Congress, and the well-founded fear standard that was adopted mirrored § 203(a)(7), not § 243(h).
JUSTICE POWELL'S claim that the House Report also sought to incorporate the informal asylum standard is unfounded. Post, at 462-463. As the passage he quotes and the context plainly indicate, the House Report referred to "means of entry" — an issue dealt with under § 203(a)(7), not the asylum regulations. See H. R. Rep., at 10. The Committee's reference to the Attorney General's asylum procedures, seven pages later in the text, in a discussion labeled "Asylum," and not even dealing with the definition of "well-founded fear," see id., at 17, certainly does nothing to support JUSTICE POWELL's conclusion.
The interpretation afforded to the IRO definition is important in understanding the United Nations' definition since the Committee drafting the United Nations' definition made it clear that it sought to "assure that the new consolidated convention should afford at least as much protection to refugees as had been provided by previous agreements." United Nations Economic and Social Council, Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Statelessness and Related Problems 37 (Feb. 17, 1950) (U. N. Doc. E/1618, E/AC.32/5 (hereafter U. N. Rep.)). In its Manual for Eligibility Officers, the IRO had stated:
"Fear of persecution is to be regarded as a valid objection whenever an applicant can make plausible that owing to his religious or political convictions or to his race, he is afraid of discrimination, or persecution, on returning home. Reasonable grounds are to be understood as meaning that the applicant can give a plausible and coherent account of why he fears persecution." International Refugee Organization, Manual for Eligibility Officers No. 175, ch. IV, Annex 1, Pt. 1, § C19, p. 24 (undated, circulated in 1950).
Nonetheless, the Handbook provides significant guidance in construing the Protocol, to which Congress sought to conform. It has been widely considered useful in giving content to the obligations that the Protocol establishes. See McMullen v. INS, 658 F.2d 1312, 1319 (CA9 1981); Matter of Frentescu, 18 I. & N. Dec. 244 (BIA 1982); Matter of Rodriguez-Palma, 17 I. & N. Dec. 465 (BIA 1980).
Whether or not the Board was correct in Dunar, its holding based on a presumption that the two provisions were consistent says little about how the Protocol should be interpreted absent such a presumption, and given Congress' amendment of the statute to make it conform with the Protocol. See Carvajal-Munoz, 743 F. 2d, at 574 (distinguishing pre-1980 "prediction" about the relation of the standards with post-1980 analysis of Congress' actual intent).
"When a court reviews an agency's construction of the statute which it administers, it is confronted with two questions. First, always, is the question whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue. If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter; for the court, as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress. If, however, the court determines Congress has not directly addressed the precise question at issue, the court does not simply impose its own construction on the statute, as would be necessary in the absence of an administrative interpretation. Rather, if the statute is silent or ambiguous with respect to the specific issue, the question for the court is whether the agency's answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.
" `The power of an administrative agency to administer a congressionally created . . . program necessarily requires the formulation of policy and the making of rules to fill any gap left, implicitly or explicitly, by Congress.' Morton v. Ruiz, 415 U.S. 199, 231 (1974). If Congress has explicitly left a gap for the agency to fill, there is an express delegation of authority to the agency to elucidate a specific provision of the statute by regulation. Such legislative regulations are given controlling weight unless they are arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute. Sometimes the legislative delegation to an agency on a particular question is implicit rather than explicit. In such a case, a court may not substitute its own construction of a statutory provision for a reasonable interpretation made by the administrator of an agency.
"We have long recognized that considerable weight should be accorded to an executive department's construction of a statutory scheme it is entrusted to administer, and the principle of deference to administrative interpretations
" `has been consistently followed by this Court whenever decision as to the meaning or reach of a statute has involved reconciling conflicting policies, and a full understanding of the force of the statutory policy in the given situation has depended upon more than ordinary knowledge respecting the matters subjected to agency regulations. . . .
" `. . . If this choice represents a reasonable accommodation of conflicting policies that were committed to the agency's care by the statute, we should not disturb it unless it appears from the statute or its legislative history that the accommodation is not one that Congress would have sanctioned.' United States v. Shimer, 367 U.S. 374, 382, 383 (1961).
"Accord, Capital Cities Cable, Inc. v. Crisp, [467 U.S. 691, 699-700 (1984)].
"In light of these well-settled principles it is clear that the Court of Appeals misconceived the nature of its role in reviewing the regulations at issue. Once it determined, after its own examination of the legislation, that Congress did not actually have an intent regarding the applicability of the bubble concept to the permit program, the question before it was not whether in its view the concept is `inappropriate' in the general context of a program designed to improve air quality, but whether the Administrator's view that it is appropriate in the context of this particular program is a reasonable one. Based on the examination of the legislation and its history which follows, we agree with the Court of Appeals that Congress did not have a specific intention on the applicability of the bubble concept in these cases, and conclude that the EPA's use of that concept here is a reasonable policy choice for the agency to make." Id., at 842-845 (citations and footnotes omitted).
The BIA has answered the question of the relationship between the objective § 243(h) standard and the fear-based standard of §§ 203(a)(7), 208, and the United Nations Protocol in at least three different ways. During the period between 1965, when § 203(a)(7) was enacted, and 1972, the BIA expressly recognized that § 203(a)(7) and § 243(h) prescribed different standards. See supra, at 433-434. Moreover, although the BIA decided in 1973 that the two standards were not irreconcilably different, see Matter of Dunar, 14 I. & N. Dec. 310 (1973), as of 1981 the INS was still instructing its officials to apply a "good reason" test to requests for asylum from aliens not within the United States. See Dept. of Justice, INS Operating Instructions Regulations TM 101, § 208.4, p. 766.9 (Nov. 11, 1981) (explaining that "well-founded fear" is satisfied if applicant "can show good reason why he/she fears persecution"). In 1984, when this case was decided by the BIA, it adhered to the view that the INS now espouses — complete identity of the standards. In 1985, however, the BIA decided to reevaluate its position and issued a comprehensive opinion to explain its latest understanding of the "well-founded fear" standard. Matter of Acosta, Interim Decision No. 2986 (Mar. 1, 1985).
In Acosta, the BIA noted a number of similarities between the two standards and concluded that in practical application they are "comparable" or "essentially comparable," and that the differences between them are not "meaningful," but the agency never stated that they are identical, equivalent, or interchangeable. On the contrary, the Acosta opinion itself establishes that the two standards differ. In describing the objective component of the asylum standard, the BIA concluded that the alien is not required to establish the likelihood of persecution to any "particular degree of certainty." Id., at 22. There must be a "real chance" that the alien will become a victim of persecution, ibid., but it is not necessary to show "that persecution `is more likely than not' to occur." Id., at 25. The Acosta opinion was written after we had decided in Stevic that the § 243(h) standard "requires that an application be supported by evidence establishing that it is more likely than not that the alien would be subject to persecution," 467 U. S., at 429-430. The decision in Acosta and the long pattern of erratic treatment of this issue make it apparent that the BIA has not consistently agreed, and even today does not completely agree, with the INS's litigation position that the two standards are equivalent.
We cannot accept the INS's argument that it is impossible to think about a "well-founded fear" except in "more likely than not" terms. The Board was able to do it for a long time under § 203(a)(7), see Matter of Tan, 12 I. & N. Dec. 564 (1967); Matter of Adamska, 12 I. & N. Dec. 201 (1967), and has apparently had little trouble applying the two separate standards in compliance with the recent Courts of Appeals' decisions. See, e. g., Matter of Sanchez and Escobar, Interim Decision No. 2996 (Oct. 15, 1985).
"Whether an alien's burden of proving eligibility for asylum pursuant to Section 208 (a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, 8 U. S. C. 1158 (a), is equivalent to his burden of proving eligibility for withholding of deportation pursuant to Section 243 (h) of the Act, 8 U. S. C. 1253 (h)." Pet. for Cert. (I).
This question cannot be read as challenging the Court of Appeals' determination that the BIA in fact required respondent "to demonstrate a clear probability of persecution in order to be declared eligible for asylum." 767 F. 2d, at 1454. We therefore decline to address the issue. See United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Mitchell, 451 U.S. 56, 60, n. 2 (1981); Irvine v. California, 347 U.S. 128, 129 (1954).