By: Coleman Jackson, Attorney
December 15, 2016
Any foreign person who is physically present in the United States of America or who arrives here or is brought here regardless of their legal status may apply for asylum complying with the requirements set forth in 8 U.S.C.A. §1158, Immigration and Nationality Act §208.
The foreign person seeking asylum bears the responsibility to establish that they are a refugee, within the meaning of U.S. Immigration Law. Credible evidence will need to be presented that shows that the foreign person is a refugee within the meaning of the Immigration and Nationality Act under one or more of the following categories:
- MEMBERSHIP IN A PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUP; or
- POLITICAL OPINION
Asylum seekers must allege and demonstrate that at least one of the listed categories is the central reason for the past, or perceived future persecution in their homeland. One of these five categories must be central to the asylum seekers’ past persecution or credible fear of persecution upon returning home.
In this blog post, we will limit our discussion of asylum to the asylum seekers membership in a particular social group. In modern times in U.S. asylum law, victims of domestic violence have had success filing for asylum under the membership in a particular social group category. This category has been used to apply for asylum based on gender-based persecution, such as, forced marriages, child marriages, female genital cutting, rape, domestic violence and sexual crimes against the victim.
If a foreigner enters the United States and claims persecution as a member of a particular social group, U.S. Department of Homeland Security examining officers at the border must conduct a credibility screening. The standard used at the credibility screening is very low. At this credibility screening the examining officer is not to make eligibility determinations or weigh the evidence or decide the credibility of the asylum seeker’s claims or statements. The examining officer must decide whether to refer the asylum seeker for a credibility determination hearing or send them back to their homeland. If the examining officer finds that the asylum seeker’s claim is not credible, they must expedite the removal of the foreigner’s return to their home country. If the examining officer decides that the claim is credible, they must refer the case for a full asylum credibility hearing; the referring officer must give the asylum seeker Form M-444 and explain the purpose of the credibility determination hearing. The asylum seeker may have legal representation at the credibility determination hearing. In the credibility determination hearing, the demeanor, candor, and responsiveness of the asylum applicant (and witnesses, if any) are all relevant. The basic logic and plausibility of the applicant’s or witness’s story are relevant to making the credibility determination. Consistency in the applicant’s, witnesses’ oral and written accounts is extremely important factors in a credibility determination. U.S. Department of State country condition reports are also used in asylum credibility determination hearings.
Even if the asylum seeker has a credible fear of persecution based on membership in a particular social group, their asylum application can still be impeded and denied pursuant to any of the factors listed in INA §208(2)(A) and INA §208(2)(B).
In the event the asylum officer grants the asylum seekers application based on their membership in a particular group, the foreigner enjoys the following immigration benefits:
- They cannot be removed or returned to their home country (country of nationality);
- They may be authorized to work or engage in employment in the United States;
- They may be allowed to travel abroad with the prior consent of the U.S. Attorney General; and
- One year after the grant of asylum, the foreigner can apply for Lawful Permanent Residence status (Green Card).
Filing asylum is serious business and is complex. Foreigner’s who are contemplating filing for asylum in the United States should consult legal counsel before they file because filing a frivolous asylum application will prevent the foreigner from receiving any immigration benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act. That means the foreigner would be prohibited from even visiting the U.S. for any reason. This bar is permanent under the INA.
This law blog is written by the Taxation | Litigation | Immigration Law Firm of Coleman Jackson, P.C. for educational purposes; it does not create an attorney-client relationship between this law firm and its reader. You should consult with legal counsel in your geographical area with respect to any legal issues impacting you, your family or business.
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