Off The Wall: Asylum

(6:00PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Second installment of my new series. My first one last week is here.

PLEASE read & rec this essay here from davidseth with this ACTION item Haiti: Humanitarian Help, Stop Deportations  AFSC link. I’m also checking in with the Miami Herald periodically for their local news and updates.

Wow this is boggy stuff. I’m in the weeds here! In light of the current disaster with the earthquake in Haiti, which I wrote about yesterday, I thought I’d try to take a look at the area of Asylum.  Others have written essays about the complex political history of Haiti, here, here and here. And here.

I wanted to explore the term Temporary Protected Status, but first I had to see about Asylum. And Refugee.  

What Is the Major Difference Between Asylum and Refugee Applicants?

The major difference between asylum and refugee applicants is that those seeking refugee status  apply from outside the United States.  Asylum-seekers must be in the United States or applying for admission at a port of entry. DoJ Fact Sheet

Credible Fear: An asylum seeker who has a credible fear of persecution or torture is referred to an Immigration Judge to hear and then judge their asylum claims.


Anyone here speak gobblydeegook? ;-/

How Does USCIS Process Asylum Claims?

In processing affirmative asylum claims, USCIS asylum officers conduct interviews of asylum applicants and determine whether to grant asylum.  In making a determination, the asylum officer will evaluate applicants’ testimony, the information they provide on their applications, any supplementary materials they submit, and the credibility of their claims.  Moreover, the asylum officer will consider country condition information from reliable sources as well as the relevant law found in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the regulations found in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and case law.

If the asylum officer does not grant asylum, the applicant’s case is referred to an EOIR immigration court.  This referral to an immigration court is not a denial of the applicant’s asylum application.  The applicant’s asylum request will be considered (without additional refiling) when the applicant appears before an EOIR immigration judge.  The determinations that the asylum officer made in referring the applicant’s application are not binding on the immigration judge, who will evaluate the applicant’s claim anew (de novo review).

Understand, I am basically new to much of this and it’s overwhelming. I’m gathering info so that we can all learn. I really don’t have a head for this legalistic stuff though. How in hell a person seeking this protection is supposed to wade through this process is beyond me.  Amazing what I’m finding, much from the 2000’s. Here’s something from 2005 on the subject: US Detention of Asylum Seekers and Human Rights, by Bill Frelick, Amnesty International USA.

Human rights advocates are particularly concerned about the likely expansion of detention of asylum seekers for two principal reasons. First, detention often has the effect of infringing on asylum seekers’ ability to exercise their right to seek asylum, particularly since asylum seekers in the United States do not have the right to government-funded legal representation, and detention facilities are often located in remote areas where relatively few pro bono attorneys are available. Second, many asylum seekers are highly traumatized people who have survived torture and other severe abuses for whom detention, particularly prolonged detention in jails, is particularly harmful.


Wait… what?

Aliens seeking asylum in the United States can submit an asylum request either affirmatively or defensively. (See Obtaining Asylum in the United States: Two Paths” from the USCIS department.)

An asylum seeker present in the United States may submit an asylum request either with a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer (affirmative request), or, if apprehended, with an immigration judge as part of a removal hearing (defensive request). During the interview, an asylum officer will determine whether the applicant meets the definition of a refugee.

If the case is denied, an applicant may appeal for additional hearings with the Board of Immigration Appeals or, in some cases, with federal courts.

Aliens may also request asylum at the port of entry (POE) by informing an inspection officer that he/she is fleeing persecution or seeking asylum. The individual is then referred to an asylum officer for a credible fear interview to determine if he/she has a verifiable fear of persecution. If the claim for asylum is verified, the case is referred to an immigration judge and the individual placed in nonexpedited removal proceedings. If the claim is denied, the individual will be subject to removal.

Sidetracked. Sorry my OCD took over.

Let’s see if we can connect this up somehow. I’m a little afraid to look.

Restore Fairness website has this blog entry on how Asylum Seekers can get mistakenly flagged as terrorists.

According to a Human Rights First report released last week [Nov 2009], since 2001, over 18,000 refugees and asylum seekers who pose no threat to U.S. security have not received protection from the U.S. government due to the overly broad provisions of Immigration law, and the expansive way that they have been interpreted by federal immigration agencies. The pdf report, entitled, ‘Denial and Delay: The Impact of the Immigration Law’s “Terrorism Bars” on Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the United States’, outlines the pervasive, unintended consequences of the “terrorism” provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and provides some recommendations for swift and comprehensive solutions to the problem.

Out of the 18,000 cases, 7,500 are in limbo after having been put on hold or delayed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Most of these are people who are already in the U.S. and have filed for permanent residency. However, the delays are thwarting efforts of these people to bring over their family members, many of whom remain in stuck in very dangerous and difficult situations in their home countries.

Oh. I was right. Boggy.


Calling for reform, the report details that although DHS has been trying to deal with this situation by granting discretionary waivers, it has been piecemeal and is clearly not enough. They suggest that Congress amends the notion of “Tier III terrorist organizations” and the definition of “terrorist activity” to be more specific and appropriate.

The INA’s sloppy definition of a “Tier III terrorist organization” is causing groups that the U.S. does not treat as “terrorist” in any other context to be defined in this way…refugees who pose no threat to the U.S., and are not guilty of any conduct for which the U.S. would legitimately want to exclude them, are being denied the protection they need or are unable to obtain permanent residence or reunited with their spouses or children. Any non-citizens who do pose a threat to the U.S. or who are guilty of actual terrorist acts or other crimes are already covered by other provisions of the immigration law, so that the “Tier III” definition is being used overwhelmingly against people who were not its intended targets.

Moreover the Human Rights Watch report demands that DHS –

adopt a more effective and fair approach to granting “waivers”, one that allows people initially applying for asylum, refugee status or other relief to be considered for waivers based on an individualized assessment of their actions, that permits prompt adjudication of the large mass of applications for permanent residence and family reunification of people…and that ensures that no refugee is deported without being considered for a waiver if eligible for one under law.

Anwen Hughes, the author of the report, says that the speed at which Congress and the Obama administration is dealing with situation is disastrously slow. She said that change is critical in order to ensure that the immigration laws are no longer used to exclude legitimate refugees from the protection the U.S. is committed to offering them.

That’s it from me on this for this week. I’m tapped out.

Is there a lawyer in the house? {kidding}


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  1. theres some useful links in here anyway.


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