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.
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.