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:
The Lasalle immigration court is one of three immigration courts in Louisiana run by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. It is located in Jena, Louisiana, LaSalle Parish, Louisiana and has a population of just under 4,000. It is located approximately three hours north of Baton Rouge and an hour and a half south of Monroe, almost literally in the middle of nowhere.
Unfortunately, given its remote location, immigrants detained at the facility adjoining the Lasalle immigration court and who make their court appearances at the Lasalle Immigation Court do not have a plethora of immigration attorneys to choose from. In fact, out of all the attorneys who practice law in Jena, Louisiana, not one of them to date practices immigration law. Therefore, people who are detained at the Lasalle ICE Processing Center must look outside of Jena for representation. The closest nearby city which has attorneys who practice immigration law is Alexandria, Louisiana. It is this city where Liberty Law Group, LLC has its office. Alexandria, Louisiana is located just an hour south of Jena, Louisiana.
The Lasalle Immigration Court is relatively new. It was completely empty and used prior to the most recent elections. After the Trump administration received notice that there was an empty courtroom available to conduct removal operations, it quickly went into action. Initially, the first judges who were appointed to oversee the hearings at the Lasalle Immigration Court were based out of Miami, Florida. The hearings would be conducted via video conference where both the judge and the government prosecuting attorney would be in Miami and the immigrants would sit in the once previously courtroom with a large screen tv sitting in front of them which displayed the courtroom located in Miami, Florida.
In late 2018, EOIR appointed permanent judges to sit on the bench at the Lasalle immigration court. There are now five immigration judges overseeing cases at the Lasalle immigration court. Judges at the Lasalle immigration court not only oversee immigrants housed at the Lasalle ICE processing center, but they also adjudicated cases for immigrants who are detained at River Correctional Facility in Ferriday, Louisiana and Bossier Medium Security Facility located near Shreveport, Louisiana.
Immigration attorneys at Liberty Law Group have many clients who attend hearings at the Lasalle immigration court and regularly attend hearings at that location.
If you have any family or loved ones in immigration proceedings at the Lasalle immigration court, and decide to travel to Jena, Louisiana to visit them, you are strongly encouraged to stay in the Alexandria area as there are no hotels that are remotely worth staying in. Your dining options are also highly limited although if you want some good southern cooking, you can’t go wrong with Burger Barn.
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Good news is coming for some asylum seekers requesting release upon entering the United States. On September 5, 2019 Federal Judge James E. Boasberg issued a preliminary injunction requiring ICE to restore parole procedures for detained asylum seekers.
Before President Trump took office, asylum seekers (even those who were not eligible to request bond before an immigration judge) could seek release by using a process known as parole. In 2010, ICE released a memo identifying the procedure for releasing asylum seekers on parole.
Federal regulations allow ICE to release the following five groups of asylum seekers (assuming they do not present a flight risk or pose a danger to the community):
(1) aliens who have serious medical conditions, where continued detention would not be appropriate; (2) women who have been medically certified as pregnant; (3) certain juveniles; (4) aliens who will be witnesses in proceedings being, or to be, conducted by judicial, administrative, or legislative bodies in the United States; and (5) aliens whose continued detention is not in the public interest. See 8 C.r.R. § 2l2.5(b).
In the 2010 memo, ICE elaborated on the "public interest" requirement as follows: "when an arriving alien found to have a credible fear establishes to the satisfaction of ORO his or her identity and that he or she presents neither a flight risk nor danger to the community, ORO should, absent additional fac tors (as described in paragraph 8.3 of this directive), parole the alien on the basis that his or her continued detention is not in the public interest."
After taking office, the Trump administration altogether removed the ability for asylum seekers to seek parole before Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and any attempt to do so would be futile. Previously, parole was the only avenue for relief for many of these asylum seekers since many request asylum at a port of entry, are deemed "arriving aliens" under the law and not statutorily eligible to seek a bond before an immigration judge. After the Trump administration made these new rules denying parole to asylum seekers, these individuals lost all hope for ever being released during the pendency of their immigration case.
Now that Judge James E. Boasberg has blocked the Trump administration from enforcing this policy, asylum seekers who are not otherwise eligible for bond may request parole with ICE. It is important to note that this ruling does not require ICE to grant parole to each and every individual who requests it - it simply requires ICE to follow the guidelines previously enacted.
Successfully obtaining parole requires that a good deal of paperwork be submitted and this should not be taken lightly. If you or a family member are in detention and feel that you have a good chance for obtaining parole in light of this new ruling, contact Liberty Law Group and allow us to guide you through the process of requesting parole.
On July 15, 2019 the Trump administration issued a new asylum rule seriously limiting access to asylum. This rule states that any immigrant who travels through a third country on the way to the United States is ineligible for asylum unless that individual first applies for asylum in the third country and his/her asylum application is denied. This rule effects any individual who enters the United States seeking asylum after July 15, 2019. It has very serious effects upon those entering the country as the vast majority of immigrants (excluding asylum seekers from Mexico and those few individuals who are lucky enough to fly or boat directly from their home country to the United States).
What does this rule mean in real terms? Most asylum seekers would never be approved for any visas to enter the United States, therefore the only way for them to apply for asylum in the United States would be to pass through a third country en route to the United States. For example, many individuals from India who want to seek asylum in the United States travel through Thailand, Japan and Mexico before requesting asylum at a port of entry at the Mexico/U.S. border. Individuals from other countries would go through a similar route.
Fortunately, suits have been filed in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups challenging the legality of this rule. Presently, there is an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of this rule in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Unfortunately, this injunction only applies for those in the Ninth Circuit, which means the rule is presently in effect in all other federal circuits across the United States. For individuals living and/or detained in these other circuits and who entered the United States after July 15, 2019, their only legal remedy would be to seek withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture, at least until such time as this rule is struck down by a federal court, which is expected to happen some time around October when the Ninth Circuit makes a final decision about the legality of the rule.
Chris lives in Alexandria, Louisiana where he enjoys playing with his girls and being the best husband he can possibly be.