In the last several weeks, the news has been flooded with images of Venezuelans protesting their opposition to the government of President Maduro. The horrific images have shown police brutality and loss of innocent life. In response, many Venezuelans are seeking refuge in the United States.
The Bad News
The general rule is that widespread violence, crime, and civil unrest by itself does not give rise to a claim for asylum. Although their homeland is experiencing civil-war-like conditions, Venezuelans cannot win an asylum case on that basis alone. That is why Venezuelans should meet with an attorney before filing an application for asylum.
The Good News
In 2013, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which controls any asylum case filed in Florida (where many Venezuelans live), issued an decision that helps. Go Wan Tjhing v. U.S. Att'y General said "that general strife or mass unrest has embroiled a country in violence does NOT eliminate a claim that a petitioner was persecuted on the basis of a . . . protected ground."
What It Means
An asylum claim must be tied to a protected ground: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The fact that an applicant's home country is experiencing widespread violence HELPS an asylum applicant only if it shows increased fear of persecution due to worsening country conditions. For example, a Jewish person (or a gay person, or a property owner) may have been harmed in Venezuela and the overwhelmed police force was not able to respond to the call for help. THAT would be a good asylum case. The person was harmed BECAUSE of their religion or membership in a social group.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
An asylum applicant should always hire an expert who can help them navigate this complicated area of immigration law. Entire books have been written about asylum and not every immigration lawyer has the necessary experience with these cases. Although the author is a Board-certified immigration expert, this guide is intended as general information and not specific legal advice. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Schedule a consultation with an attorney to address individual concerns. For more information on asylum or benefits available to asylees and refugees, click through to the links below.