Individuals who have left their country of birth and who are afraid to return due to threats to their safety may be eligible to apply for asylum or refugee status.
Asylum vs. Refugee Status
The terms “asylum” and “refugee” each have their own separate definitions under US immigration laws. Who then is eligible for asylum or refugee status? The answer lies in where you are when you apply. People who are outside of the United States may only apply for refugee status while people who are within the United States’ borders are eligible for asylum status. Once these statuses has been provided, they allow the asylee or refugee to stay in the United States for an indefinite period. You will have permission to work and may apply for a green card within a year of entering the country with refugee status or of being granted asylum.
However, it should be noted that not everyone is qualified for the status of asylee or refugee. There are some strict requirements that you must meet, those requirements will be described below. Most importantly, anyone applying for asylum or refugee status must be able to show two things:
- That you are not willing to go back to your country because you suffered persecution there or;
- You have a legitimate belief that you will be persecuted when you return.
Basis of Persecution
The basis of your persecution must one of these five things:
- Your race
- Your faith
- Your country of birth
- Your political opinion
- The fact that you belong to a specific social group
The Definition of Persecution
To be persecuted is to be harassed, injured or oppressed and may be related to harm that is physical or psychological in nature. Immigration law in the US does not provide precise examples of actions that are regarded as persecution. However, the precedents that have been set show that these actions are included:
- Acts of violence (including torture)
- Unjust imprisonment
- The denial of freedom
- The denial of basic human rights
The US government has recognized persecution in instances where foreign governments have:
- Locked up or tortured those who express opposing views or who are otherwise undesirable
- Shot at people protesting
- Perpetrated genocide
- Excluded members of a particular religion from politics
Even if a government does not actively participate in acts of persecution but does nothing to stop others from perpetrating them, this could still be considered persecution. Examples include instances where a government fails to prevent vigilantes from ganging up on a minority group or a guerilla group from kidnapping people in order to recruit them. One method of persecution that the law actually spells out is the demand that an individual undergo a program of forced population control. This is specifically aimed at people who are being forced to abort their unborn children or become sterilized; one such program is that found in mainland China.
It is important to remember that persecution must have something to do with one of the five bases:
- Nation of birth
- Being part of a specific social group
- Political beliefs
These bases are discussed in greater detail below. Violence against homosexuals is viewed as persecution since it is related to their membership in a particular social group. However, someone who is being threatened by a criminal in their home country will not meet any of the US government’s standards for persecution and thus they would not be eligible for asylum or refugee status.
The US government has been more willing to recognize gender-based persecution in recent years than it has previously. This type of persecution is usually placed into the “social group” category and has allowed women to be granted asylum due to having undergone (or the fear of being forced to undergo) female genital mutilation and other unsavory cultural practices. Being forced to marry or being subject to domestic violence can also be considered forms of persecution.
The Five Bases of Persecution
As stated above, the government of the United States will not provide asylum or refugee status to individuals who have not suffered persecution or who are in no danger of being persecuted. That persecution also has to involve the five bases. One to three (race, faith and country of birth) are fairly obvious and need no explanation; however, below is an explanation of the other two since they are not as obvious:
This means that you have opinions about politics that your government does not tolerate, probably because they include criticism of the government’s leadership. In order to get asylum or refugee status on these grounds, you will need evidence that the government knows about your political beliefs. If they did not know, they would have no grounds on which to persecute you. It will help your case if you can show that you have written, protested or spoken publicly about your government.
There have been instances where people have proven political persecution based on their participation in protests, their activities in labor unions or the fact that they have supported the independence of a particular ethnic community. Individuals have also proven political persecution based on their membership in a particular political party.
You may also be eligible to be an asylee or refugee because your government erroneously assumes that you have certain beliefs because of your faith or your family. This type of persecution falls into a category that the US government calls “imputed political opinion.”
Being a Member of a Specific Social Group
This is the most difficult basis of the five to define; it has produced numerous legal arguments. Social groups are sometimes defined as specific groups that a government considers a threat. They have also been described as groups wherein the members a common trait that is so much a basis of their individual identities that they cannot change it nor should they be expected to change it.
Social groups that have been granted asylum or refugee status by the US government include:
- Ethnic groups
- Educated people and other social classes
- Relatives of political dissidents
- Workers in a particular occupation
- Former policemen or soldiers
- Women (in specific cases)
Seek Help If You Believe You Are Eligible for Asylum Status
We have a proven track record of successfully managing Asylum cases of all complexities.If you are looking for more information on Asylum status, or would like to discuss your case specifics, contact KPPB Law. We are prepared to help you reach your goals.