Political Asylum and Refugee Status in America
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There are times when individuals find themselves having to flee their native country because they fear political or religious persecution. Other reasons may include feeling threatened because of certain memberships they may be a part of or even due to their race or nationality. These threats may also be life threatening and, therefore, prompt a drastic change in lifestyle. Whether an individual seeks protective status while residing in the United States or in their home country determines whether they will be considered for asylum or refugee status. An "asylee" is someone who asks for protective status while residing in the United States. In order to qualify for
asylum, an individual must meet certain requirements. These include requesting asylum while at any U.S. port of entry including a US border, seaport, or airport. In addition, it is mandatory that the asylum seeking individual submit an application for asylum within a year of being in the country. There are exceptions to this rule in the case that the individual’s situation changes or if the conditions in their homeland have changed. In the extreme case that an individual is not able to file within a year due to circumstances that are out of their control, they must submit their application within a reasonable time period. It does not matter whether the individual is in the United States legally or legally, they are still entitled to apply for asylum status. However, it is important to note that to qualify for the asylum status, the individual must meet the definition of refugee. A refugee is someone who is highly reluctant to return to their home country or who does not have the option of returning to one's home country due to a serious threat like persecution.
After the asylum application has been submitted, the individual must undergo an interview. This is conducted by an Immigration Judge or Asylum Officer. Under a 1995 asylum reform, the interview must be conducted within 60 days of a claim being filed. In the case where the individual does not make it to the scheduled interview, this may automatically be grounds for their case to close. If the USCIS (former INS) does not find the claim to be valid, the individuals receive an order for deportation to their homeland. If the applicant should travel outside the United States, they must ask for permission before departing the country. This special permission is called “Advanced Parole” and allows them to return to the United States. If they leave without obtaining this permission, they will not be allowed back into the country upon their return with the result of the application being forfeited and the case being closed by the USCIS. Based upon the application and interview, a decision will be made on whether the individual will gain asylum status or not. In the case that they are granted asylum, the United States government gives them permission to reside and work in the country. However, employment authorization and the asylum application cannot occur simultaneously. One of the requirements of the USCIS is that individuals must wait a minimum of 150 days after the asylum application has been received in order to apply for employment authorization.
When an individual has been in the United States for a year with asylum status, they are given the opportunity to submit their paperwork to become permanent residents. In 1980 the Refugee Act was introduced, and it laid out the procedures and policies for asylums and refugees. As a country that prides itself on freedom, the United States continuously takes in asylees and refugees. Those that submit applications are from no particular areas, but rather come from different regions of the world. These include Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Once in the United States they have the opportunity to gain permanent residency, but this is by no means guaranteed. While there is no limit on the number of individuals that may be granted asylum, there is a limit on how many can gain permanent residency after having the asylum status for one year. Individuals who have participated in acts of persecution or assisted others in this matter will automatically be denied asylum. The current annual cap is set at 10,000 asylees. Others that can be granted asylum status include the spouse of the applicant and their children under 21 years of age. In addition, individuals must be present with the application when they are interviewed by the USCIS.