A Basic Guide For Those Considering an Asylum Application in the United States
Have you left your country because you were afraid for your life? Did you, or do you want to, come to the United States hoping for the promise of a better life, and the safety & protection that U.S. laws give to its citizens? You may be allowed to remain in the United States based on asylum. The concept of asylum is embedded in both U.S. law and international law; it is based on the idea that a country will not force a citizen of another country to return when that person can prove that he or she has suffered past persecution (see below) and/or has a well-founded fear of future persecution based on one of five grounds or a combination of grounds:
- Membership in a particular social group
- Political opinion
It is important to note that, generally, the persecutor must be the government or someone acting on behalf of the government. Alternately, depending on the circumstances, it may be a situation where violence against an individual is encouraged or sanctioned by the government, or the government refuses to step in and put a stop to it.
Persecution is usually viewed as violence where serious physical harm results (extensive beatings, mutilations, etc.); prosecution of a crime to an unreasonable extent; or severe discrimination and/or economic persecution (where it becomes impossible to earn a living due to harassment). You could also prove that you have a well-founded fear of future persecution based on events that have occurred to other people, as long as you are able to prove those things and also prove that you are in a situation where, if the persecutors found out you possessed the characteristic (race, religion, nationality, etc.) you would also be subject to persecution. Therefore, you do not necessarily have to be persecuted in order to prove that you deserve asylum.
You must also be able to prove a well-founded fear of persecution. Do you, personally, have a reasonable fear that the persecution existed, will exist, or will continue? Furthermore, would another person in your situation also be in fear? Ways to prove this include: past incidents, incidents that have happened to others, reports from international human rights agencies about the conditions in your country (and about your issue), reports from the U.S. government about the conditions in your country, whether there are laws that support persecution, etc. You need to be able to show that you possess a belief or characteristic that the government wishes to punish, that they know you possess this belief or characteristic (or could find out), and that they have the will and ability to punish you for it.
Be aware, however, that an asylum claim is a difficult one. The United States Government makes it very hard for individuals to pursue these claims, although many have done so successfully. If possible, you should gather as much evidence as you can before pursuing this avenue. You must also understand that filing a "frivolous claim," where it is determined that you fabricated evidence, may result in your permanently losing any immigration benefits.
Finally, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney. There are many individuals that will take your money but are not licensed to give legal advice—these people should be avoided. Make sure the person that helps YOU is 1. licensed to give advice (an attorney, not a notario) and 2. has worked on asylum cases before. Also, there are multiple organizations which provide help and support —many for free-- for immigrants seeking asylum in the United States.