Search results for asylum

Asylum Seekers

U.S. Asylum Law U.S. asylum law is made up of several different legal authorities, including U.S. immigration statutes and regulations, federal case law and international treaties and conventions.  People who are outside of the United States may apply for refugee protection under the United Nations Protocol, to which U.S. is a signatory.  People who have arrived in the U.S. or are physically inside the country may apply for asylum protection. In order to qualify for asylum protection, an individual must meet the basic definition of a refugee: [A]ny person who is outside any country of such person's nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or wellfounded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in particular social group, or political opinion. Persecution What does it mean to be persecuted? The word itself is not specifically defined in the rules and regulations but through case law the courts have found that persecution exists in the following situations: Serious violations of basic human rights Target of persistent death threats and threats to property and business Severe economic deprivation that threatens an individual's life or freedom, or cumulative forms of discrimination or harassment rising to the level of persecution Violation of one's fundamental beliefs In certain circumstances, physical harm to others, such as close family members The persecutor must be either the government or a group of individuals that the government is unable or unwilling to control.  In cases where the persecutor is not a state actor, an adjudicator will consider the efforts made to inform the government of threats or attacks, as well as governmental efforts to prosecute similar harm.

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Sexual Orientation as a Social Group

Introduction Since the early 1990’s, LGBTQ has been recognized as a legitimate social group eligible for asylum protection under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Therefore, in the face of persecution, an applicant may qualify for asylum or refugee status, provided they are able to establish that the persecution suffered or feared was or will be motivated as a result of his or her actual or perceived status as a member of the LGBTQ social group. This article provides information on the factors considered when determining whether or not an applicant qualifies for asylum. Defining Membership of the LGBTQ Social Group In order to be considered as a protected class in American asylum law, a connection, or a nexus, must exist between the harm suffered and a protected characteristic for which the asylum applicant has been persecuted.  Nexus analysis first requires consideration of whether the persecutor perceives the applicant to possess a protected characteristic. In other words, is the person or group giving the individual cause to fear persecution doing so because they believe the asylum applicant LGBTQ? In order to establish the cause of persecution, we must identify the characteristics the persecutor perceives. What have they said about the individual in question, or about individuals similar to the applicant? Individuals who possess or are assumed to possess protected characteristics may: Identify as gay or lesbian Be viewed as a sexual minority, regardless of whether the persecutor or society involved distinguishes between sexual orientation, gender, and sex. Be transgender (note that even if a transgender applicant identifies as heterosexual, he or she may be perceived as gay or lesbian) Be “closeted” gays and lesbians Test positive for HIV, regardless of sexual orientation Be viewed as effeminate or masculine but identify as heterosexual Not actually be gay but are thought to be gay by others

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Matter of A-B- and Women Facing Domestic Violence

Introduction In June 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned an immigration court’s decision and issued a precedential decision that makes it even more difficult for  asylum seekers to obtain asylum protection in the United States by citing fear of domestic abuse. This is also the case for asylum seekers who make asylum claims based on their fear of gang violence. The Attorney General has authority over all immigration courts and delivered a speech, which was followed by a USCIS memo, that outlined when USCIS officers should use their discretion in asylum cases. If a foreign national is being persecuted because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, then he or she may apply for asylum. An applicant can apply for asylum without having to pay a government filing fee, but the process can take months or even years.  As a result, foreign nationals can enter the United States illegally and remain in the United States while their asylum case is pending.  This “loophole” in the immigration system has often been a criticism of the Trump Administration. Immigration officers and judges often struggle with defining “membership in a particular social group” and the definition as changed over time.  An Obama-era precedent granted asylum to a woman based on her membership to a group that feared returning home due to domestic violence. Asylum is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain (see USCIS and immigration court statistics), and now Mr. Sessions believes the Obama-era interpretation defines membership in a particular social group too broadly and misconstrues the proper legal application. The Attorney General’s intervention is not uncommon and his predecessors as far back as the 1990s “have weighed in on the use of the particular social group in asylum cases.” While not unprecedented, the intervention does make it much more difficult for individuals in this context to obtain asylum due to persecution from private actors.

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Path to U.S. Citizenship

For foreign national who wishes to gain legal status and eventually citizenship in the United States, this may be achieved in a number of ways. Among the most common methods for a foreign national to achieve citizenship are either through employment or through family, including by marriage. Depending on the foreign national’s circumstances, other methods are also available. The first step on the road to citizenship is gaining legal entry to the U.S. While foreign national may eventually become a citizen despite illegal entry, the illegality of the entry will make gaining citizenship much more difficult, not to mention having to face possible detention and removal from this country, civil or perhaps even criminal penalties if the reentry was made following an existing removal order.  One can gain entry in different ways, oftentimes using either immigrant or nonimmigrant visa categories; however, some non-immigrant visa categories may not translate to citizenship. Next, in most cases a foreign national residing in the U.S. would have to first get permanent residency. Permanent residency, or a Green Card, can be awarded following entry with an immigrant visa or can be applied for from within the United States. A permanent resident can travel, re-enter, and work in the U.S. with fewer restrictions than someone with a non-immigrant visa. Once permanent residence is obtained, the foreign national must live in the United States for five consecutive years before applying for citizenship, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen spouse.  In addition, a foreign national must be able to demonstrate they are of good moral character and take a U.S. history and civics test in English, unless otherwise exempted. The remainder of this article is dedicated to the various ways one can enter and obtain permanent residency: First, the various possible visas available for temporary entry into the United States, or non-immigrant visas, which require further application for permanent residency; second, the various permanent visas foreign nationals can apply for directly; finally, special categories based on family relations and other unique situations. <Gaining admittance to the US>: Foreign citizens come to the U.S. for a myriad of reasons – to study, to be with family, to work, to escape persecution, or to share their culture. For every reason, there is generally a corresponding visa category. The U.S. has categories of visas for both immigrants and non-immigrants. Among the most common immigrant visas are family and employment-sponsored ones. In the non-immigrant category, there are temporary visas for those who visit for business or pleasure, treaty investors/traders, students, temporary workers, exchange visitors, those who are engaged to a U.S. citizen, intracompany transferees, those with extraordinary abilities or who are artists or entertainers, persons in religious occupations, and victims of trafficking and criminal activity. In addition, certain people may be eligible for the visa waiver program, which allows individuals from approved countries to gain entry into the U.S. without applying for a visa from their consulate, so long as they have a valid passport and pass the border inspection.

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Update on DAPA and Expanded DACA

In November of last year, President Obama announced a series of immigration policy changes.  Many of the changes, relating primarily to employment-based immigration, were uncontroversial and are going forward as planned.  For example, the administrative process for granting permanent residency (“green cards”) for certain workers is being streamlined to avoid backlogs in processing these applications.  In addition, the President directed USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to issue a memorandum clarifying what types of “specialized knowledge” applicants for L-1B nonimmigrant petitioners need to demonstrate. Two of the provisions announced in November have met significant opposition.  The first is the expansion of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  DACA currently allows non-citizens who were brought to the United States as children, and who meet all other program requirements, to be granted lawful presence in the U.S. for a renewable period of two years.  Being granted DACA allows the recipient to live without fear of removal, and makes work authorization available for the two-year period.  The expansion of DACA would increase the renewable time period of lawful presence to three years.  It also seeks to eliminate the requirement that the candidate be born before June 15, 1981, thereby enlarging the pool of eligible applicants.  It is important to note that under neither form is DACA a grant of lawful permanent residence or “asylum” of any kind. The Executive Action also created a new program, entitled Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA (initially called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability).  DAPA would also grant lawful presence and eligibility for work authorization for up to three years, but to parents of U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident children.  The qualifying son or daughter must have been born on or before November 20, 2014, when the announcement was made, and the parent must have been continuously present in the United States since before January 1, 2010.  As with DACA, other qualifications apply, including successful completion of a background check.  It is estimated that over four million people qualify to receive DAPA benefits. The States Respond Within hours of President Obama's announcement last November, Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio challenged the President’s plan to defer deportations in a Washington, D.C., federal court, in a case named Arpaio v. Obama. The Washington, D.C. federal court promptly dismissed Sheriff Arpaio’s lawsuit. That decision is currently on appeal. Shortly thereafter, representatives of 17 states filed a similar case in a Brownsville, Texas, federal court, with 9 other states later joining the lawsuit, in a case named Texas v. United States. The states sought an injunction to stop the implementation of DAPA and the DACA expansion.  Texas based its standing to challenge the policy on the alleged harm the state and its citizens would suffer if DAPA were put into place.  Texas currently uses taxpayer funds to supplement the cost of issuing driver’s licenses.  The theory was that since DAPA would entitle recipients to obtain licenses, Texas would either have to spend millions of dollars subsidizing licenses for non-citizens, or completely restructure their fee system.  The court agreed this was a specific potential harm that qualified the petitioning states the power to bring the suit against the federal government.

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