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If You Think Asylum, Think Attorney

Eighty eight percent (88%) of foreign nationals who apply for asylum at Immigration Court without an attorney have their claims denied.

Asylum is available to foreign nationals who come to the United States seeking protection from persecution in their home country. When deciding an asylum claim, the Immigration Judge wants to know if a reasonable person in these circumstances would fear serious harm. First, the Immigration Judge has to believe that the applicant’s story is true. Then, the Immigration Judge will grant asylum only if the facts meet the legal requirements.

The term “persecution" refers either to something that happened in the past or that might occur in the future if the foreign national is returned to their home country. There only needs to be a 10% chance that future persecution will occur. For example, if an Evangelical Christian is returned to Colombia and there is evidence that Evangelical Christians are harmed in that country, the applicant should receive asylum.

However, not all harm results in asylum. The injury must be inflicted – or there must be a reasonable fear that it will be inflicted in the future – because of the applicant’s race, religion, social group or political beliefs. Immigration attorneys experienced in asylum cases can explain whether a foreign national qualifies for asylum. One young client of Blandon Law was told by three other attorneys that “nothing could be done" because she did not have proof of harm. Today, she is a legal permanent resident based on asylum.

On average, 55% of asylum claims are denied across the nation (78% are denied in Miami) including for those clients who have attorneys. Asylum claims are usually denied for four reasons: 1) the story is not believable; 2) there is no link between the bad treatment and membership in a protected group; 3) the type of treatment is not bad enough to qualify as persecution; or 4) the type of group the person belongs to does not qualify. For example, a victim of gang violence is not a member of a qualifying social group. Many of these claims are not denied because they are not valid, but rather because the foreign national does not understand the immigration laws enough to properly present the claim in Court.

This is why it is extremely important to accurately explain all of the important details to the Immigration Judge. An attorney can organize the evidence, prepare the client and witnesses for the hearings and coordinate with a mental health professional or other expert.

Additional resources provided by the author

The statistics for this article were obtained at TRAC Immigration (see link), which compares asylum rates by judge, by region, and nationally.

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