Asylum Help

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John W. Lawit, P.C. specializes in asylum help.

ASYLUM AND RELATED PROTECTIONS

Refugee and Asylum law are complex areas of Immigration Law, and the following is intended only to provide you with a brief orientation. John W. Lawit strongly recommends that you seek professional legal advice if you or a loved one is intending to seek asylum in the United States.

I. General Information

The Refugee Act of 1980 was the United States Congress’ attempt to bring the country into conformity with established international refugee law. Currently, you may seek asylum in the United States if you have fled your country because you fear persecution and otherwise fit into the legal definition of refugee:

…is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that 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.

The above definition is a narrow one and does not encompass every circumstance where a person is forced to flee their country because of war, violence, persecution or human rights violations, but it does allow relief for some. A request for asylum in the United States can be based on past persecution and/or fear of future persecution. It is important to remember that all grants of asylum are discretionary and based on a government official’s determination of whether an asylum seeker deserves the grant as a matter of their discretion.

II. Applying for Asylum

You can apply for asylum from inside the United States or by arriving at a port of entry and declaring asylum. In general, immigration law requires that if you are already present in the U.S. that you apply for asylum within a year of your entry. There are limited exceptions to this one year rule. For example, if there has been a significant change in your circumstances or in the conditions of your home country, it may be possible to apply in spite of having been present in the U.S. for over a year.

There are two primary paths to apply for asylum, depending on whether or not you are in removal (deportation) proceedings. If you are present in the United States and are not in removal proceedings, you can apply affirmatively. In the alternative, you may apply for asylum as a defense to removal.

III. Bars to Asylum

Certain people are disqualified from receiving asylum. If you fit into one of these categories, however, you still may be eligible for alternative forms of relief (see below). You are ineligible for asylum if you have:

  • Firmly resettled in a third country;
  • Been convicted of an ” aggravated felony” – serious crimes of violence, theft, drug trafficking amongst others;
  • Persecuted others;
  • Been convicted of a particularly serious crime;
  • Committed a serious non-political crime before coming to the U.S.;
  • Been or are a danger to U.S. security;
  • Been involved in, supported, or carried out terrorist activities.

IV. Pros and Cons of Applying for Asylum

a. Pros

  • A grant of asylum results in Legal Permanent Residency (green card);
  • Your spouse and minor children may also be able to obtain their Legal Permanent Residency;
  • If you lose your asylum case, you may still be eligible for lesser forms of relief.

b. Cons

  • Asylum cases are difficult and complex;
  • If you lose your asylum case, you will likely be forced to leave the United States if you have no other valid immigration status.

V. Alternatives to Asylum

There are two forms of relief that are similar to asylum: Withholding of Removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture. These forms of relief are only available to individuals in removal proceedings. Although the benefits are less than those provided to successful asylum seekers, they still provide relief from persecution in a home country. In general, they provide a way to remain and work in the United States but do not provide Legal Permanent Residency status. If you are successful, these benefits do not extend to your family members.

a. Withholding of Removal

Withholding of removal is an alternative to asylum, but carries a higher burden to show that persecution will occur if you are forced to return to your home country. You are disqualified from applying for withholding of removal if you have:

  • Committed an ” aggravated felony” and the total sentence for convictions was more than five years;
  • Persecuted others;
  • Been convicted of a particularly serious crime;
  • Committed a serious non-political crime before coming to the U.S.;
  • Been or are a danger to U.S. security;
  • Been involved in, supported, or carried out terrorist activities.

b. Convention Against Torture (CAT) Relief

CAT relief is an alternative to asylum or withholding of removal. Under CAT, you are eligible for relief if it is more likely than not that you will suffer torture upon return to your home country. The torture does not have to be because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. However, those responsible for the torture must be part of the government, acting on behalf of the government, or with the consent of the government. There are no bars to relief under CAT, so there are no grounds of disqualification if you otherwise meet the requirements.