Asylum is a special immigration status granted to people who flee their home countries after being treated badly because of who they are, or because they fear being treated badly in the future. You have the right to seek asylum in the United States if you’re afraid of persecution at home on the basis of your religion, race, nationality, politics or membership in a particular social group. Some people seek asylum by applying directly to the United States government after they arrive, but in many cases, you can also apply for asylum as a defense against deportation. The Ojala-Barbour Law Firm helps clients apply for both affirmative and defensive types of asylum.
People who are granted asylum receive authorization to work in the United States, the right to bring some of their family members to join them and, eventually, eligibility to apply for permanent residence and citizenship. But proving your case for asylum can be difficult, especially because the government requires detailed explanations of situations in your home country that may be emotional to discuss and hard to document. Our attorneys work with asylum applicants to build their cases, prepare for interviews and understand what’s happening at all points in the asylum process.
Seeking ‘Affirmative’ Asylum
To seek asylum without being in removal proceedings—which the law calls an “affirmative” asylum application—you usually must put in an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within a year of your arrival in the United States, although there are some important exceptions to this. If you are thinking of applying for asylum, though, it is important to understand that if your application is not approved by the asylum office and if you do not have a legal immigration status, the government will refer your case to the immigration judge, which means you will be put into removal (“deportation”) proceedings. Because of that, our immigration lawyers thoroughly evaluate the cases of potential asylum applicants before starting any paperwork, and make sure that we explain the legal consequences of all your options.
Those who do apply will be interviewed by an asylum officer who works for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the government. (This interview may not take place for quite a while, due to backlogs in that agency.) Your credibility in that interview is extremely important, which is why our attorneys help you prepare for that interview with multiple detailed discussions of your history in your home country. We also gather paperwork, testimony from people who were there or who understand the conditions you fled, and other evidence that bolsters your case.
Asylum as a Defense to Deportation
You go through a different process if you’re claiming asylum as a way to avoid being ordered removed, or deported, from the United States. In these cases, you file the application with the immigration judge who’s hearing your case. Instead of telling your story to an asylum officer, you will make your case in a courtroom. A representative of the federal Department of Homeland Security will be present, and depending on the facts of the case, he or she may argue that your story is not credible or doesn’t meet the legal standards for asylum.
Because of that, it’s very important to look carefully at the facts of your case with an experienced attorney. In addition to preparing you by going over your testimony and gathering evidence and paperwork supporting you, our attorneys will also try to anticipate and counter the arguments the government is likely to make. We can also sometimes help asylum seekers with other kinds of immigration relief that can be sought even as their asylum application is pending, such as family-based visas or U visas for crime victims.
Contact our St. Paul Asylum Lawyers
If you need to convince the government that your home country is no longer safe, the Ojala-Barbour Law Firm can help. Our attorneys dedicate their practices solely to immigration law and the rights of immigrants. To speak with someone about your situation and your options, call us at (651) 214-6284 or contact us online.