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Seeking Political Asylum in the United States

In one of his last executive actions before leaving office, on January 12, 2017, president Obama has ended a long-standing policy known as “wet foot dry foot.” Under this policy, Cuban nationals fleeing Cuba were granted entry into the United States without a visa and eventually, after being in the country for a year, were able to apply for and be approved for legal residency in the United States. The policy was supposed to protect people escaping political persecution in Cuba, but had also been used by economic refugees seeking better opportunities in the United States.

Cuban nationals entering the United States without a valid visa will now be treated as other hopeful immigrants, and be eligible for deportation. Like other immigrants, those with fears of political prosecution will still be able to seek political asylum upon arrival in the United States.

Asylum is a legal process through which a person can be granted permission to stay in the United States if the person has a well-founded fear of persecution in his or her home country based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Seeking asylum is not always an easy process, and the person seeking asylum has the burden of proving his or her case and showing that he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution. Generally, a person seeking asylum has a year from the date of arrival within the United States to seek asylum, and there is no fee for the application. If granted asylum, a person can also legally work here.

What constitutes a well-founded fear depends on the facts of each asylum seeker’s case. It is not as simple as just alleging that the government of the asylum seeker’s country will harm the person upon return. There has to be some evidence of the claim, for example, past incarceration for political reasons. For this reason, asylum cases can be difficult to prove and for the asylum seeker to be successful. If a person is not successful, removal proceedings or deportation may be the next step. In some cases, a person may be held in detention while an application for asylum is pending.

Even a person with a well-founded fear of persecution based on the above reasons may be unable to apply for asylum if the filing deadline has passed since his or her arrival in the United States, the person previously applied for asylum and was denied, or can be granted asylum in a third country as part of an agreement with the United States.

A person can also be denied or barred from asylum if the person engaged in terrorists activities or was a part of a terrorist group, participated in the persecution of people based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, committed or was convicted of certain crimes, was settled in another country before seeking asylum in the United States, and for several other reasons.

Contact us for Experienced Legal Assistance

Having an attorney assist you with your claim for asylum can make a difference in whether or not you are able to present your case in the best way. If you believe you have a reasonable case for asylum because of persecution you suffered in your country of origin, contact our multi-lingual staff in Pasadena, California, to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP to discuss how we can help you with your application.

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