As the number of countries impacted by war, gang violence, food and water shortages and oppressive governments continues to increase throughout the world, so too do the number of innocent civilians who are impacted. Faced with the daily threats of persecution, harm, starvation and death; a record number of men, women and children from around the globe are making the difficult decision to flee their homes and countries in hope of finding safety and a better life.
According to The United Nations Refugee Agency, during 2015, a record number of people, 65.3 million, were displaced by war and persecution. This startling number translates into approximately one out of every 113 world citizens and is forcing other more peaceful countries, including the United States, to reexamine their immigration and asylum policies.
Who Can Seek Asylum In The U.S.?
Only individuals who are classified as refugees are eligible to seek asylum in the U.S. The Refugee Act of 1980 defines a refugee as an individual who has endured or fears suffering persecution in their home country because of their "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."
The Asylum Process In The U.S.
Individuals who are granted asylum in the U.S. can legally work, are eligible for government assistance, may travel outside of and return to the U.S. and can petition to bring their family members to the U.S. Additionally, being granted asylum is a path to obtaining a green card and permanent resident status and to eventually becoming a U.S. citizen.
An individual who is in the U.S. may seek asylum through one of two processes:
- Defensive Asylum - Individuals who are currently facing removal from the U.S. may seek asylum by filing an application for asylum with the Department of Justice. Asylum cases are then reviewed and determined by immigration judges at the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
- Affirmative Asylum - Individuals, who are not currently subject to removal actions, may apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the U.S. through the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Applicants that are denied asylum are subsequently subject to the removal process, but may renew an asylum petition under the defensive asylum process.
How An Immigration Attorney Can Help
Applying for asylum in the U.S. is a complex, confusing and frustrating process and it can take months or even years before a determination is made. What's more, increasingly individuals who apply for asylum are being detained at U.S. detention centers which are often akin to prisons.
Detained asylum seekers are frequently stripped of their Constitutional and civil rights and forced to remain locked up for months or years. An immigration attorney will fight to ensure that your rights are acknowledged, protected and upheld. An attorney will help you build a strong asylum case and represent you and your best interests at all related hearings.