Many of you have heard of “Asylum” but most of you probably do not know what it is or whether you, your family or a friend are eligible for assistance from the government of the United States under this process. I have had several clients recently come to me for help with a pending deportation and they did not realize that they were actually refugees and should have been seeking asylum protection from the United States government.
Asylum applies to any individual at any age from any country if you meet the eligibility requirements. To be eligible for protection you must prove that you have suffered persecution or fear that you will suffer persecution in your home country because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Unfortunately, someone is not eligible just because the conditions in their home country are not good or because they want a better job or life here in the United States. You must prove that returning to your country of origin can mean torture or even death.
There are two different processes for obtaining asylum: affirmative and defensive. To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process, you must be physically present in the United States and must apply for asylum within one year of the date of your last arrival in the United States. You can apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.
For the defensive asylum process, a request for asylum is used as a defense against being removed (deported) from the U.S. For asylum processing to be defensive, you must be in removal proceedings in immigration court. This process requires attending hearings at the Immigration Court in Detroit with a formal trial where the judge determines whether or not to grant asylum to the applicant. If the judge finds the applicant (and families) eligible for asylum, they will grant the status and allow the individual to remain in the US and seek additional assistance from the government. If the applicant is not eligible for asylum, the judge will determine whether the individual is eligible for any other forms of relief from removal. If there are no forms of relief available, the individual (or family) will then be removed from the United States.
Although the asylum process can be a difficult or long process, an approval can literally change an applicants’ life forever. Obtaining asylum status in the US gives the seeker a fast-path to a green card and citizenship for themselves and any eligible family members in the US or back in their birth country.