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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.

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.