Knowing where, when and how to apply for asylum in the United States can make the difference between securing a safe and hopeful future for yourself and your family or living in fear for your life and safety in the country you are fleeing. The key to success often requires planning ahead to give yourself the very best possible chance for winning your asylum case.
First, it is key to knowing the two different methods of applying for asylum. There are defensive asylum applications and affirmative asylum applications. A defensive asylum application is where an individual applies for asylum while in removal proceedings with the Executive Office for Immigration Review – otherwise known as immigration court. Within the immigration court system, individuals can apply for asylum in detention or outside of detention. An affirmative asylum application is an application that is submitted to the local asylum office at the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). These decisions are not made by an immigration judge, but rather by an asylum officer.
It goes without saying that it is better to submit an affirmative asylum application than a defensive one. Generally, affirmative asylum applications have a much higher percentage of approvals than defensive asylum applications. Not only that, but the applicant will be able to present their testimony in a much less stressful environment by sitting in an asylum office rather than in front of a judge. Additionally, affirmative asylum applicants don’t have to worry about being cross-examined by a government attorney. However, at the end of the day, their testimony must still be credible and they still must meet the definition of a refugee, as defined by both U.S. and international law.
One of the most basic requirements to filing for asylum is being present in the United States. Individuals residing outside the United States cannot apply for asylum. For example, an individual from Thailand cannot go to the U.S. embassy in Bangkok and apply for asylum – he must travel to the United States. The problem with this is that the difficulty lies with simply reaching the United States as the vast majority of visa applications are denied by the United States consulate. If you are one of the few lucky ones to be granted a visa in the United States, you may submit an affirmative asylum application after entering the United States.
If you are not granted a visa, your only other option lies in reaching the border. Note, if you try to enter the United States through Canada, then you will not be allowed to submit your asylum application unless it was first denied by Canadian immigration authorities. The only other option which is used by the vast majority of individuals is to enter the United States through the U.S. Mexico border.
Most people who enter the U.S. through the Mexico border are subject to expedited removal and are not eligible to apply for asylum unless they first pass what is known as a credible fear interview. Individuals are subject to expedited removal if they seek admission at a port of entry or are apprehended within 14 days of arrival and within 100 miles of the border. For more information on expedited removal, the American Immigration Counsel has put together a great primer which can be found by clicking on the following link: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/primer-expedited-removal. While this particular fact is outside the scope of this article, it is important to note that if you present yourself at the nearest port of entry, you will not be eligible to ask the immigration judge for a bond and will be at the mercies of your local ICE office to grant parole, which is being uniformly denied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as a result of as policy issued by the Trump administration.
Once you are detained at the southern border, it is impossible to predict where your final destination will be. Many applicants lately have been forced to remain in Mexico throughout the pendency of their asylum application. Many others are detained by ICE and shipped to one of many detention centers across the United States, approximately ten of which are located in Louisiana where attorneys from Liberty Law Group regularly assist their clients in filing asylum applications.
As noted in the beginning of this article, where you apply for asylum can make a tremendous difference in whether you are successful or not. This is why it is always better, whenever possible, to submit affirmative asylum applications because with affirmative asylum applications you get to ultimately choose where you file your asylum application, since the filing location is based upon your place of residence. If you submit your asylum application while in detention, you don’t get to choose your judge and you will not have the option to transfer to a different venue if you do not like which judge you are given. For example, an individual detained in Louisiana but who has family in Nevada cannot ask the immigration court to transfer his case to Nevada – ultimately ICE makes the decision as to where a particular immigrant will stay and the immigrant does not have the option of disputing that location or requesting a different location.
For more evidence as to why location is critically important, click on the following link: https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/judge2018/denialrates.html. Let’s take a look at this link to put this into greater perspective. If you are detained in Louisiana, you will be assigned to one of several immigration judges, with the most liberal immigration judge having only a 16.2% grant rate (see Oakdale). However, if you are one of the few lucky ones to be detained in the state of New York, you might be assigned to one judge with an approval rate of close to 80%. From reviewing this chart, it is easy to tell which geographic locations give you the greatest chance of success.
Applying for asylum in one of these remote and rural ICE detention centers presents a number of challenges. First, these proceedings move lightning fast where a given case will usually take between 3-4 months total. It is often very difficult to gather the necessary evidence to support one’s case in such a short amount of time. Being detained, you are also at the mercies of your family and friends to gather supporting evidence on your behalf.
Louisiana immigration attorneys at Liberty Law Group have vast experience submitting asylum applications on behalf of their clients and have had hundreds of cases. If you or a loved one are detained at any of the following detention centers then give us a call and allow us to put our experience to work for you: