How to Seek Asylum: Explained

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas. According to the New York Times, some 7000 central American migrants have at last reached the U.S. border to seek asylum. For weeks, news agencies have reported on a caravan of migrants who started a long journey from Honduras to the U.S. border with Mexico. Many of these migrants are fleeing violence and poverty. Some of the migrants in the caravan plan to seek asylum at the border.

But what is the asylum process? And what will the migrants need to show in order to receive asylum? First, it is important to distinguish between the affirmative asylum process and the defensive asylum process. During the defensive asylum process, someone already in the U.S. will make a claim of asylum before a judge in order to prevent their deportation from occuring. The affirmative asylum process is what many migrants will use when they attempt to cross the border.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in order to seek asylum, a person must be physically present in the U.S. (and not be facing deportation) or entering the country. Individuals must fill out an application for asylum within one year of arriving in the U.S. After an application has been received, an asylum applicant will need to submit to fingerprinting and background checks. After USCIS receives an asylum-seeker’s application, the waiting process begins. Eventually, the individual will be called for an interview. Until he or she is called for an interview, the asylum-seeker is permitted to live and even work in the U.S. It can take some time for an individual to be called for an interview. USCIS schedules interviews based on priority and there can be a backlog. First priority applicants are those who had an interview scheduled but needed to reschedule. The second priority applicants are those who have applications pending for 21 days or less. Finally, under the third priority, USCIS will schedule interviews with the newest filings and work backward to older filings, which is a reverse of policy prior to the Trump administration.

During the interview, the immigration officer will make a decision about whether a person can seek asylum or not. However, if the application is denied, the applicant can appeal.

While the process is long, several things hold true. If a person has a fear of returning to his or her home country, he or she is entitled to seek asylum at the U.S. border under the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951. Individuals who fear persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because of their membership in a social group, are entitled to apply for asylum. While individuals crossing the border only need to tell officers that they fear returning home, when applying for asylum individuals must detail their fears in detail and provide support for their claims.

If you or a loved one is seeking asylum, much is at stake. Return to your home country could mean death, jail, or violence. The Law Office of J. Joseph Cohen is a San Antonio, Texas immigration lawyer who assists clients with a range of immigration concerns. A qualified attorney can help you gather documents and present your story in the strongest manner possible when applying for asylum. An asylum lawyer can also be present at your interview to clarify any questions officers might ask you. If you have questions about the asylum process or your rights, contact the Law Office of J. Joseph Cohen, a San Antonio, Texas immigration lawyer today.


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