I am quoting from my asylum guide on AVVO:
An alien present in the United States can request asylum at any time to an inspection officer or any other INS official. When such a request is made, the alien is to be referred to an interview with an asylum officer.
The Refugee Act of 1980 created the asylum interview and hearing procedures that included the definition of refugee found in the 1967 Protocol. If the alien is over the age of fourteen, he can request asylum at any time until his physical departure from US. The undocumented alien can wait until a removal hearing and indicate his intention to be considered for asylum at that time or even wait until after the immigration judge has ruled with respect to his removal from the United States.
When an undocumented alien asks for asylum, the INA requires he be taken before an asylum officer who determines whether or not there exists a credible fear of persecution. If the asylum officer determines that it is not a valid claim, than if the alien is out of status, he is removed from the US. The alien is informed that he can have the officer’s decision reviewed by an Immigration Judge. (IJ) If the alien request to have the decision reviewed, USCIS will notify the IJ who is required to conduct a review within seven days after the date of determination by the asylum officer. The alien must have an opportunity to be heard and questioned by the IJ. The IJ can conduct the review in person, by telephone, or by video connection. If the alien is out of status, he will be detained by the USCIS pending the IJ’s review.
The IJ conducts an original review of the evidence to determine if the alien has a credible fear of persecution. If the IJ determines that the alien has a credible fear, he or she shall vacate the removal order issued by the asylum officer. If the IJ decides that the asylum officer was correct, then the judge must affirm the officer’s order and remand the case to the USCIS for execution of the removal order.
Legal disclaimer: The statement above is provided by CC Abbott is based on general assistance and not intended to be a legal opinion because not all the facts are provided. The person requesting information and all others reading the answer should retain an attorney who is permitted by the state bar within the jurisdiction who can examine the complete facts and provide a legal opinion on your case. All information provided in the above answer and other information provided by CC Abbott does not create an attorney/client relationship within any state of Federal law.
If he is afraid to return to his home country then he can request asylum while at the airport. He can be detained, but must be afforded a credible fear interview by CBP. The interview will be conducted by a USCIS officer so it may not take place for a few days so detation is a likely result.
If the alien's story appears plausible he will be allowed to remain in the U..S. during the pendency of his asylum proceedings. However, he will most likely be detained during this process.
Consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case specific advice.
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Jeffrey is correct. He will be able to request asylum at the airport and cannot be sent back if he claims that he could be killed if returned. He will be interviewed at the airport. Then his case will be assigned to an immigration judge. He will be detained, however, ICE has recently adopted a policy in which asylum seekers are to be released from detention while their case is pending. This almost always is the case if the individual can prove her identity and can establish that she has a place to reside once released. Also the individual cannot be a flight risk or a danger to society.
I agree with Mr. Devore. If he has a credible fear of returning, he must request political asylum ASAP.
This answer is of a general nature and should not be relied upon as final, nor is it intended as legal advice. A consultation with an experienced attorney is always the best way to go.