Category: State department

Applying for Asylum? Should you?

This week, I will be traveling to Miami to represent a client in an asylum interview. In this post, I will be discussing eligibility for asylum in simple terms.  I will also provide a list of important resources one could use when applying for asylum.
Asylum law is the international community’s recognition that some individuals would be threatened if they were forced to return to their homeland. According to the High Commissioner of Human Rights, this practice is one of the oldest traditions in human history. National laws are used to establish eligibility for this form of protection. Under our laws, the process of establishing eligibility is a complicated one. An asylum seeker could apply for protection overseas, where he or she applies for asylum through an international agency. However, one a person is in the US, the Department of Homeland Security adjudicates these petitions.
To qualify as an asylum seeker, one must meet the definition of refugee under the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The Act defines a refugee as :”any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality . . . and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and 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. INA § 101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A).
It seems like such definition should encompass many categories and should be straightforward. It suffices to say that one of the most appealed petitions in immigration law is the petition for asylum I-589. Most of the immigration cases that reach circuit review around the United States involve asylum petitions. Many people believe that the application is a straightforward one. Sometimes, the application is such; however, when the threats are not crystallized or there is a fear of future harm, one should really hire an attorney. Most of these appeals involved applicants whose petitions were not clear enough to convince the adjudicator that they were harmed or would face harm if returned to their countries.  It is very important to consult an attorney before you apply, and if you can not afford one, please visit this link to find a free attorney in your state. Please do not apply on your own, and consult an attorney, specially since the chances of success are very low (see graph below).
So to answer the question above,  consult an attorney before you apply and do discuss other options if the attorney recommends against filing. Please comment if you have any questions.
Asylum Statistics
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DOS and DHS Change Their Rules Regarding Misrepresentation

In a letter sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid, DHS announced a new procedure regarding the application of section 212 (a)(6)(C)(ii) of the Act. The section makes an  applicant who makes a false claim to citizenship inadmissible into the United States. 
The new policy makes a person inadmissible only when the claim is knowingly made to the immigration officers. A person raising the claim that his misrepresentation was in error bears the burden to prove such assertion. The new policy also establishes a new affirmative defense for people who were under 18 when the claim was made. This defense has two components: 1) that the person was under 18 when the claim was made and 2) that the person could not have appreciated the consequences of such claims. 
I have represented several clients in immigration court who had been charged with misrepresentation under the Act. Several of them did not have the intent to misrepresent a material fact to the officer. I welcome the change and I look forward to pleading the new policy in immigration court.