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An immigration judge should not have relied on information the Department of Homeland Security gleaned from Wikipedia to bolster its case for denying asylum to an Ethiopian immigrant, the 8th Circuit ruled.

The government used the free online encyclopedia to glean information about the purpose of a laissez-passer, the travel document that petitioner Lamilem Badasa claimed would establish her identity.

The Board of Immigration Appeals stated that it did "not condone or encourage the use of resources such as Wikipedia.com in reaching pivotal decisions in immigration proceedings," but held that the immigration judge's denial of asylum was "supported by enough evidence to find no clear error."

However, Judge Colloton said the immigration judge might not have denied asylum without the use of Wikipedia. The court also reiterated that anyone can edit the entries in the online reference.

"Because the BIA's ultimate conclusion that Badasa failed to establish her identity is not adequately explained," Colloton wrote, "we must remand for further proceedings.


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