Testimonial Inconsistencies, Adverse Credibility Determinations, and Asylum Adjudication in the United States

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Political asylum is a judicial process by which an individual facing persecution in his or her home country may be granted residence and protection within a foreign country. In the United States, immigration judges render credibility determinations that are often considered 1 of the most influential components of an asylum claim. Even small testimonial inconsistencies can be cited as the basis for an adverse credibility determination and subsequent asylum claim denial; however, to date no research has compared the levels or types of discrepancies in veracious accounts to those in fabricated claims. The present study aimed to add to the literature by determining what, if any, differences in testimonial inconsistencies existed between genuine and exaggerated asylum claims. Twenty-eight individuals who have been legally granted asylum in the United States were randomized to either a genuine or simulated exaggerated (i.e., instructed to exaggerate) claim condition and interviewed at 2 time points. The content of the interviews was coded for discrepancies, and discrepancy levels were compared between groups. In this study, a finding of statistical significance would have supported the current immigration court policy, whereas proving the null would suggest important policy implications for asylum adjudication. No significant differences between groups were found, and discrepancy levels across groups were unexpectedly high. Results suggest that the current practice of using testimonial inconsistencies as a proxy for the detection of exaggerated or false asylum claims may be misguided.

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