Greer Asylum Attorney
Put Years of Experience in Your Corner
Persons who believe they could face persecution or violence in their home country due to one or more qualifying factors can seek asylum in the United States. The Refugee Act of 1980 enshrines these rights and protections for asylum seekers. In addition, those who successfully gain asylum status – called asylees – enjoy numerous benefits in the U.S. and cannot be sent back to their home country.
Successfully obtaining asylum status is exceptionally challenging and often requires skilled legal assistance. In addition, new laws, rules, and protocols are frequently introduced with changing immigration priorities, making understanding how to efficiently and pragmatically seek asylum extremely confusing.
Our Greer asylum defense lawyers at Colón Law Firm has a full knowledge of the evolving nature of asylum in the United States and can guide you through each phase of the process. Whether you are proactively seeking asylum or need to use it as a defense in your deportation proceeding, our team is ready to fight for your right to be protected.
Do I Qualify for Asylum?
One cannot simply seek asylum under any circumstance. They must meet specific qualifications based on their relationship with their home country. The idea behind asylum is that you are seeking sanctuary in the United States from harm that is likely to befall you if you were returned to your home country. Asylum seekers must have “well-founded” fear of persecution or violence in their home country as a result of their:
- Political Opinion
- Membership in a Social Group
If an individual sincerely believes and can produce evidence demonstrating they would face persecution in their home country due to their Christian faith, for example, they would likely meet some of the essential qualifications of asylum in the United States. In addition, political opinions and membership in a social group can encompass everything from belonging to a country’s opposition party to openly advocating for women’s rights.
To qualify for asylum status, your fear of persecution must be “well-founded.” The exact criteria for how well-founded fear is depends on how you seek asylum, which will be discussed more below. Even the lowest threshold requires your proving. It is more likely than not that you will face persecution, violence, or torture should you be returned to your home country.
It is also worth pointing out that the harm does not necessarily have to stem from your home country’s government. If you can prove violence is likely to befall you from some other party that the government cannot or refuses to stop – such as an organized crime syndicate – you could still qualify for asylum protection.
Finally, you must apply for asylum within 1 year of entering the United States. It does not matter if you entered the country lawfully or unlawfully; the 1-year rule still applies and can even be the single factor that triggers a rejection in your case.
The only exception to the 1-year rule that tends to be entertained is if the threat of returning to your home country emerges after the 1-year mask has passed. In other words, if you entered the United States and were present there for more than 1 year and only then a changing situation in your home country gave you a well-founded fear of persecution, you might still have a chance of obtaining asylum status. This could happen in situations where a critical election dramatically transforms the political makeup of your home country, placing you at risk due to one or more of the eligible reasons.
What Are the Benefits of Asylum?
The most important benefit of asylum status is you cannot be deported to your home country, protecting you from the harm or persecution you fear. Asylees also enjoy numerous other significant benefits, however, including the means to permanently immigrate to the United States. Asylees can:
- Live in the United States
- Work in the United States
- Apply for Social Security, Medicaid, and Refugee Medical Assistance
- Request authorization to travel abroad and return
- Petition to permit family members to join you in the country
- Seek lawful permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship
Asylees are able to apply for a green card, which grants them lawful permanent residency, at any point after the one-year anniversary of their status being granted. After successfully obtaining a green card through this method, an asylee can wait 4 years and then become eligible to apply for citizenship.
How Seeking Asylum Works
The process for seeking asylum depends on how you begin the process. The two procedures are called “affirmative asylum” and “defensive asylum.”
If you are not currently in removal proceedings in immigration court but wish to seek asylum, you will do so through the affirmative asylum process. This requires you to proactively request asylum consideration through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
You should always consult an experienced lawyer before seeking asylum in this manner, as affirmative asylum carries inherent risks that should be carefully weighed. When you proactively seek asylum, USCIS agents will evaluate whether you fulfill the criteria. If they determine you do not, and you do not otherwise have valid immigration status, you will likely be summoned for removal proceedings, placing you at risk for deportation. At this point, you can attempt to seek asylum again through defensive asylum.
The defensive asylum process is used by asylum seekers already in removal proceedings. Persons in these situations are at risk of deportation. They argue they have a well-founded fear of persecution or violence should they be removed and returned to their home countries; in other words, asylum is utilized as “defensive” relief. Remember that you will likely need the skills of a qualified attorney to assist you in arguing that you are entitled to asylum protections. Still, immigration courts are not obligated to provide you with legal counsel.
If you are attempting to seek asylum at the border of the United States, you will in most situations be placed in expedited removal proceedings intended to and expected to use the defensive asylum method. You will need to inform a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer that you fear persecution or violence if you are removed, triggering a “Credible Fear” screening.
It is important to understand that a Credible Fear screening is only a preliminary evaluation and will not determine asylum status. The officer conducting the screening will determine if there is a “significant possibility” that the person will qualify for asylum protections, which in turn submits them to an actual defense asylum hearing in court. If they feel there is not a significant possibility, the individual is placed back in removal proceedings, where they will have one more chance to appeal the decision. Should a judge agree there is credible fear, the individual will be able to formally seek defensive asylum.
If you attempt to reenter the U.S. after previously being removed or have been convicted of certain crimes in the country, you will be placed in the reinstatement of removal process. If you fear persecution in your home country, you can request a “reasonable fear” interview, which works differently than other asylum processes. As the name would imply, you will be expected to demonstrate you have a reasonable fear of violence should you return to your home country as a result of one of the eligible factors.
Suppose government agents feel there is a reasonable fear. In that case, you will be able to for “withholding of removal,” which prevents your deportation because of potential persecution. However, withholding removal is more challenging to prove and does not confer the same benefits as asylum status. For example, you will not be able to pursue lawful permanent residency or citizenship.
How We Can Help You as Asylum Law is Changing
Even though the rights of refugees and the institution of seeking asylum are specifically spelled out in immigration law, changing political administrations often bring significant changes to how policies are interpreted and implemented. Over the past several years, seeking asylum has become substantially more challenging, especially for those pursuing defensive asylum at the border.
Remember that legal counsel is not constitutionally guaranteed or given in immigration court proceedings. However, having our Greer asylum defense attorneys on your side can help you navigate the constantly metastasizing rules and steps to successfully seeking asylum, even with the more restrictive changes.
At Colón Law Firm, we are client-centered and results-driven. We have a complete familiarity with the changing laws surrounding asylum and will leverage our knowledge and experience to help you fight for the protections you deserve.