According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.S. received 262,000 asylum applications in 2016, which was twice the amount of applications in 2014. That was two years ago, which means as each year passes, the number of applications has only continued to grow.
What is Asylum?
Asylum is granted to a foreigner who is escaping persecution from his or her home country from reasons outlined in U.S. and international law. The asylum-seeker must show they will face persecution based on race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a specific social group.
A person granted asylum will be allowed to legally stay in the U.S. without deportation, be allowed to work, and even get an asylum status for their spouse or child.
The idea of asylum was originally started by the United Nations in 1951 during World War II. The persecution that the Jews suffered during the Holocaust resulted in 145 nations setting these standards for people seeking protection in foreign countries. In the U.S., Congress adopted the standards into U.S. Immigration law in 1980.
Who is Eligible?
The application for applying for asylum is open to anyone who fears returning to their home country and can start the application at any official port of entry, which is anywhere you are interviewed by U.S. Customs. But even if someone illegally crosses into the U.S. and avoids the official port, but runs into a borders agent later, that person is still legally entitled to request asylum.
It takes around 180 days of filing an application to be granted asylum status, although the timeline is widely varied for each individual. Once granted, the asylum-seeker can apply to work, have a social security card and eventually apply for a green card after one year of living in the U.S.
How has this changed in the Trump Administration?
Under Trump, his administration introduced a new rule forcing those seeking asylum to apply only at the official port of entry. A federal judge challenged the rule, saying it conflicted with existing law. While the result of this battle is still being played out, the Trump administration has officers stopping migrants before they reach the point of entry. Families are told the U.S. doesn’t have enough resources at the entry points and can only process a certain amount of applications each day. This means there is no way migrants’ safety can be protected while they are waiting in their old country.
One of the most significant changes under Trump is when the Attorney General Jeff Sessions overruled a decision that said asylum seekers who are fleeing domestic abuse are no longer recognized as a “particular social group” and therefore cannot seek asylum.
The Trump administration has added hurdles to the process of seeking asylum. However, if you consult with an attorney before applying, it can increase your chances of success. If hiring an immigration attorney before you apply is not possible, then having an attorney after applying will be even more important. A great attorney will help you petition for asylum, make sure all documentations are correct, and help you with the interview process.
Ask the Immigration Attorney
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