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Seeking Asylum in the United States

Human rights groups recently filed a lawsuit against the federal government alleging that guards and officials at entry points along the U.S. – Mexico border are turning away asylum seekers using misinformation and even threats. This discouragement of asylum seekers has been alleged to have happened before the asylum seeker is even processed, and before a determination is made as to the validity of a person’s asylum claim.

The kind of discouragement of asylum claims that has been claimed in the lawsuit could act to discourage people from seeking asylum in the U.S. because they are afraid and unsure of what the law says about the processing of asylum cases.

A person may seek asylum in the U.S. if the person can show that he or she has a legitimate fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. A person seeking asylum has to be physically present in the country or at a point of entry in order to make an application for asylum. If the person is already in the country, he or she has to make the asylum application within a year of arriving in the country, unless he or she can show an exception to this deadline applies.

When a person makes a claim for asylum at the border, he or she may go through an initial screening to determine the credibility of the asylum claim. This can lead to a full hearing later on.

In some cases, a person may claim asylum for the first time once the person is placed in removal proceedings. This is called a defensive claim for asylum, and can be used if the person is in removal proceedings for the following reasons:

  • The removal proceeding is initiated by an asylum officer (who has made a finding that the asylum seeker has a credible fear of persecution in a preliminary screening);
  • Immigration violations; or,
  • Trying to enter the U.S. without proper documents.

In a removal proceeding, the asylum seeker will have to argue his or her case and present evidence that supports the claim for asylum. The asylum seeker is allowed to have an attorney, and because the government is also represent by an attorney in these proceedings, it is best for the asylum seeker to have an attorney present.

While awaiting the final word on an asylum case, the asylum seeker may be held in a detention center. However, if the asylum seeker has family members or other contacts in the U.S. who can provide for him or her financially, he or she may be conditionally released pending the resolution of the asylum claim. In order for a person to be released, he or she has to make an application for release.

Contact an Immigration Attorney

If you are in the U.S. and have yet to file an application for asylum, you need to act fast or miss the deadline for doing so. Failing to file within the appropriate time can interfere with your ability to file for protection even if you have a good claim. For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.


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