Immigration Law 101: Understanding Asylum
You have the basic human right to enjoy a peaceful life. Unfortunately the world is not always a friendly place, especially if you are gay, bisexual, transgender, or part of a particular religion or political party. Every year, many people arrive in the U.S. knowing that if they return home, they may face persecution simply because of who they are or because of their home country’s aggressive hostility to their sexual orientation. While some deal with harassment and discrimination, others are tortured and even killed.
If you are already in the United States and genuinely fear that returning to your country of origin will result in persecution, torture, and even death because of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership in a particular social group, you may seek asylum.
Grounds for Seeking Asylum
U.S. immigration law permits you to apply for asylum status if you meet three requirements:
- You are living in the United States,
- You can’t trust your home country’s government to protect you from persecution, and
- You fear persecution based on your religion, race, nationality, political opinion, sexual orientation, or membership in a recognized social group.
For asylum purposes, persecution must be more than discrimination or harassment. Acts that meet the definition of persecution include arrest, detention, acts of violence, sexual assault, and significant economic deprivation. This mistreatment must either be at the hands of the government or parties that the government cannot or will not control.
You must also not be barred from seeking asylum or be otherwise inadmissible to the United States. Grounds for inadmissibility or deportation are listed in Section 202, 212(a), and 237(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. They include but are not limited to:
- The commission of serious crimes
- Assisting in the persecution of others
- Affiliation with a group that has been a prior threat to national security
- Submitting an incomplete or fraudulent application
In general, you must file your application for asylum within one year of arrival in the U.S. Failure to do so doesn’t necessarily disqualify your claim, but you will have to demonstrate eligibility for an exception to the deadline rule.
Types Of Asylum
There are two types of asylum you can apply for. Which one you seek will depend on your circumstances.
is when you apply directly to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You must be physically present in the United States. The process includes the submission of Form I-589 and supporting documents, plus an interview at a USCIS Asylum Office. The asylum officer issues a decision within 180 days. If your application is denied, you can have your case reconsidered by an immigration judge in removal proceedings.
occurs when you seek asylum as a defense against removal proceedings, which happens if you are arrested for being undocumented or violating your immigration status, or other reasons. An immigration judge will hear your case in a removal proceeding. If the result is denial, you have an opportunity to appeal before being deported.
Alternatives To Asylum
If immigration officials deny your application or you don’t qualify for asylum status in the U.S., there are alternatives you can pursue. They include:
Withholding of removal
which is sometimes granted for those who are ineligible for asylum but have demonstrated that their life may be in danger if deported.
The T visa
which allows victims of human trafficking to remain temporarily in the U.S., typically if they help law enforcement by testifying against the perpetrators.
The U visa
which protects those who have suffered mental or physical abuse (e.g., domestic violence, extortion, female genital mutilation) and assist law enforcement efforts against criminal activity.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
If you fear that returning to your home country will result in dangerous persecution due to your circumstances, contact the Law Offices of Connie Kaplan, PA, immediately. Our aggressive and dedicated asylum application team will help you protect your well-being and your future. No one should live in fear for their life, so let our firm help you safeguard yours.