In 2003, Lamilem Badasa entered the United States illegally using a fraudulent Italian passport. After applying for asylum and relief, she was required to establish her identity as part of the protection process. Badasa presented Bloomington, Minnesota-based federal immigration judge Kristin Olmanson with a laissez-passer, an travel document that Badasa obtained from the Ethiopian government. Opposing Badasa's asylum and relief was the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
To make their case the laissez-passer document did not establish identity and nationality, the Department of Homeland Security submitted several documents designed to explain the purpose of a laissez-passer, including information submitted by the Department of Homeland Security from an Internet website known as Wikipedia. Based on the submitted documents, the Judge Olmanson concluded that Badasa's failure to prove her identity, reasoning that the laissez-passer is a single-use, one-way travel document that is issued based on information provided by the applicant. As a result, the Judge Olmanson denied the application for asylum.
On review at the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the BIA acknowledged that it was improper for the Judge Olmanson to consider information from Wikipedia in both evaluating Badasa's submission and in reaching pivotal decisions in immigration proceedings. Nonetheless, the BIA found that Badasa was not prejudiced by the Judge Olmanson's reliance on Wikipedia and conclusion that Badasa did not establish her identity.
The BIA decision left open several questions: (i) would the Judge Olmanson have reached the same conclusion without Wikipedia? and (ii) why would the Board of Immigration Appeals believe that the Judge Olmanson's consideration of Wikipedia was harmless error, in the sense that it did not influence the judge's decision? In Badasa v. Mukasey (Appeals Court opinion), the Eighth Circuit determined that the BIA made no independent determination that Badasa failed to establish her identity and failed adequately to explain its conclusion that Badasa did not establish her identity. The Eighth Circuit then sent the case back down to the BIA for further proceedings.