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  • Jesse Westover

Refugee Protection: Can Refugees Seek Asylum in the U.S.?

Updated: Jan 13

Many people seek protection, or asylum, every year in the U.S.A. These asylum seekers, in general, are forcibly displaced from their countries for the following reasons:

  • Race

  • Religion

  • Members of a Particular Social Group

  • Political Opinion

  • Nationality

Aside from being protected by international law, Asylum seekers can also apply for asylum in the U.S.A. They must file Form I-589, an Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, within one year from their arrival in the U.S.


american holding a united states flag

The U.S. federal government also allows refugee families to seek asylum. Asylum seekers can also include their spouses and children in the U.S. application process. If asylum seekers are accepted, they can get a green card, or attain permanent resident status one year after the asylum application is granted.


Who Is a Refugee, and How Does It Differ from an Asylum Seeker?


A refugee is recognized in the new country as having fled persecution and has been provided with legal protection under the international refugee protection system through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), by the host government, or both. In the United States, a refugee was provided with legal status by the U.S. government overseas and then brought over to reside permanently in the U.S. An asylum seeker, on the other hand, came to the U.S. without official refugee status. Their claim has not yet been decided on by the host country in which they submitted their refugee protection application. Refugees and asylum seekers seek safety, international protection, and legal protection in the U.S. However, not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee. Still, every refugee is an asylum seeker initially.


What Is Refugee Protection?


According to UNHCR, "Protection is defined as all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual under the letter and spirit of the relevant bodies of law, namely human rights law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law." This provision covers all activities implemented by different agencies and agents working with refugees. These activities include legal protection, such as providing asylum seekers refugee documents, refugee resettlement, casework, physical protection, and recreational activities.


Protection is the responsibility of states and their agents. If a state or its government cannot or unwillingly protect its citizens, these individuals have the right to seek asylum in other countries. The 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol establish the main principles on which the protection of refugees is based. Included herein is the Principle of Non-discrimination and the Principle of Non-refoulement.


The principle of Non-refoulment is vital in the international refugee protection system. Along with the Principle of Non-discrimination, these protect refugees or people seeking asylum from being turned away at the border and returning a person to a State where their lives are in danger, including stateless persons. In the U.S., the asylum law recognizes the right to asylum regardless of immigration status. Asylum seekers may apply for asylum at the designated entry point.


What are the Different Types of Asylum?


There are three ways of obtaining asylum in the United States:


The Affirmative Process:


To attain asylum, you must be physically present in the United States. You may file your asylum claim regardless of your arrival in the United States or immigration status. This happens if you have not been placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.


Assylum Merits Interview with USCIS After a Positive Credible Fear Determination:


You will be assigned a USCIS asylum officer who will conduct a screening interview to determine credible fear of torture or persecution. You will be referred to USCIS for screening of credible fear if you express a fear of torture or persecution or express a fear of returning to your country of origin if you are placed in an expedited removal proceeding and expressed your intention to apply for asylum. If the asylum officer determines the credible fear of torture or persecution, you may be assigned further for another interview to move forward with your asylum claim.


Defensive Asylum Processing with EOIR:


A defensive application occurs when you request asylum as a defense against removal from the U.S. when the removal proceedings in immigration court with the EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review) are ongoing. This setup is adversarial, and you will be in a courtroom. You may be found eligible for asylum, or the immigration authorities may look for other forms of relief from removal. You may be ordered removed from the United States if the immigration judge finds you ineligible for any relief. However, you, or your adversary, may appeal the decision.


The Process of Getting Help With Asylum Claims


The Westover Law Firm Process allows potential clients to deal with any of the three types of asylum claims. We provide legal representation so you can get the appropriate legal protection of being granted refuge and be entitled to everything that comes with that status. We have very detailed and organized guides to ensure that you will be guided through the challenging process. We encourage clients to be open and ask our attorneys questions to dispel their doubts. We commit to providing excellent service to help you through any struggle with the process. For any questions about asylum claims, when can an immigrant apply for citizenship, immigrant employment laws, and other related issues, call us at (480) 284-4200 or fill out the contact form provided on this page.

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