About Asylum

About Asylum

The information below was taken from The National Immigration Forum’s website: http://www.immigrationforum.org/research/display/refugees-and-asylees/

Like refugees, asylees are people seeking protection, in our case in the United States, on the grounds that they fear persecution in their homelands based on his or her race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin. Where these two definitions differ is in the method in which one reaches the United States. Whereas refugees apply for and are granted permanent residency in a third country while residing outside of the third country in question, usually in refugee camps located immediately beyond the borders of their homeland, and are provided transportation to and financial assistance by the third country through resettlement agencies, asylum seekers are those who manage to obtain the transportation and documentation (such as a passport) necessary to reach their prefered country of asylum on their own and, once within this country, appeal to the country’s government to be granted asylum. In short, refugees are those granted legal and permanent residency before entering the country of asylum; asylum-seekers travel to the country of asylum using their own resources and hope to gain legal and permanent residency upon entering the country.

Individuals inside the United States may apply for asylum in one of two ways. The application may be submitted “affirmatively” by mailing an application to a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center. The USCIS will schedule an interview with a specially-trained asylum officer in one of eight asylum offices in the United states. A “defensive” application is submitted when an asylum seeker is in removal proceedings. In defensive cases, an Immigration Judge decides the application. In either instance, the application must be submitted within one year of entry to the United States, or the person will be found automatically ineligible. Exceptions are allowed for extraordinary circumstances.

Like refugees, asylum-seekers must, in addition to proving a well-founded fear of persecution, be screened to ensure they are not inadmissible to the United States for some reason, such as criminal activity. Applicants for asylum must submit fingerprints, and they are subject to a check of all appropriate records and information databases, including FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and State Department databases.

In recent years, the concept of what constitutes a ‘social group’ that may be targeted for persecution has evolved. For example, some women seeking asylum have based their claims on domestic violence. In this case, the civil authorities of the country have been unwilling to intervene in life-threatening situations, leaving the woman totally at the mercy of her abuser unless she flees for her life. Sexual orientation has also served as the basis for successful asylum claims in some cases. In either case, it is not only direct persecution by the government that serves as the basis for an asylum claim, but also the unwillingness of the government to protect someone in a particular group who is in serious danger.

Individuals seeking to apply for asylum upon arriving at a U.S. airport or other port of entry are subject to a procedure called ‘expedited removal’. If an asylum seeker arrives with false or no documents, he or she must express a fear of persecution in an on-the-spot interview before an immigration officer, or face immediate deportation. If successful in expressing a fear of persecution, he or she may be referred to an asylum officer to establish a credible fear of persecution. If successful at that stage, the asylum-seeker is referred to a hearing before an immigration judge. An immigration judge may review a negative decision within seven days.