Asylum Myths and Truths
Asylum has been in the news lately due to President Trump’s remarks on the system. To clear up some of the confusion, here are common myths we hear about asylum petitions and the truth:
- “Asylum is only for people involved in politics.”
While political asylum is absolutely legitimate, there are many other ways people who fear persecution can apply for asylum. Asylum is open to anyone who fears return due to persecution based on 1) race, 2) nationality, 3) religion, 4) political opinion, 5) membership in a particular social group, or 6) fears harm based on the United Nations Convention Against Torture. An experienced attorney can tell you whether one of those categories applies to you.
- “Asylum is only decided by a judge.”
There are two types of asylum: Affirmative Asylum, which is decided by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Defensive Asylum, which is decided in immigration court by a judge. If you are not in court, you may be eligible to apply for affirmative asylum. If you do not win your case before USCIS, they will refer you to court where you have another chance to convince the government that you should be given asylum.
- “I can apply for asylum at any time.”
Generally, the foreigner has one year to apply for asylum from the date of entry. If you apply for asylum more than one year after you have entered the country you may only get protection called Withholding of Removal, decided by a judge. Of course, the few exceptions to this rule may apply to you, so be sure to talk to an experienced asylum lawyer before deciding whether to pursue asylum.
- “I fear going back because of poverty, so I qualify for asylum.”
Nothing is more false. As of the date of the writing of this article, the United States does not recognize economic refugees as qualifying for asylum. You must have persecution based on one of the six categories listed above.
- “People lie to get asylum all the time.”
Once again, completely false. While the writer of this article does acknowledge that there are people who try to take advantage of the system, those are very few and far in between compared to the many actual stories of persecution we witness in our work every day. In order to get asylum, one must have proof of some kind – whether it’s affidavits of witnesses, police reports, hospital records, pictures, etc. Most attorneys will catch people in their lies, and if they don’t – the government will. If you lie to the US government, you lose all immigration benefits and can be deported.
- “I have little to no proof. I can’t apply for asylum.”
Aside from primary evidence, such as police records, witness statements, etc., there are other ways to support the case. An experienced asylum attorney can tell you whether your case is strong or weak. Be sure to ask for advice before deciding you don’t qualify for asylum.
Asylum is just one of many options for immigrants in the United States. If you want to know more about the asylum process or whether you qualify, be sure to call the offices of Wu and Hung Law, LLC. We are experienced, compassionate immigration attorneys who will give you honest advice and advise you on whether you should pursue asylum or any other option.