The Real Process Of Applying For Refugee and Asylum In The United States

Protesters that marched from Freedom Plaza to the U.S. Capitol demonstrate inside the Hart Senate Office Building against family detentions and to demand the end of criminalizing efforts of asylum seekers and immigrants June 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 1,000 women from 47 states took part in the march, with numerous arrests taking place during the sit-in at the Senate office building. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Fri. June 29, 2018: In the current Trumpian ‘dictatorial’ atmosphere of rule by executive orders, tweets and dog whistles, there seems to be a determined effort to use the derogatory and inaccurate term “illegal” to describe immigrants arriving at the US border and wishing to apply for refugee and asylum status.

That of course is another effort by this administration to present alternative facts; a ‘bigly’ effort indeed. But here are the facts, according to the US’ own laws and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services guidelines, as laid out on its own website as it relates to refugee and asylum applicants arriving at the US’ borders.

1: First off, while some people use the terms refugee and asylum interchangeably, it’s necessary to note that they are in fact distinct differences. While they are both considered protections to foreign individuals who feel their safety is in jeopardy if they return to their home country, refugee status is for those who are currently outside the United States. Those who arrive at the US ports or are already in the United States, either through a visa or other means, can seek asylum status. Both of these options, if approved by the government, would permit an individual to stay in the country indefinitely.

2: You can apply for asylum at the port of entry in the U.S. or, regardless of your immigration status, within a year of coming to the United States. You cannot apply abroad.

3: In the United States there is no fee to apply for asylum. Asylum seekers can list their spouse and all their children on Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.

5: There are two paths to claiming asylum: Affirmative and Defensive.

Affirmative Asylum

To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process, an immigrant must be physically present in the United States. An immigrant may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.

The immigrant may apply for affirmative asylum by submitting Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, to the USCIS.

If your case is not approved and you do not have a legal immigration status, you will be issued a Form I-862, Notice to Appear, and your case will be referred to an Immigration Judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). The Immigration Judge will conduct a ‘de novo’ hearing of the case. This means that the judge conducts a new hearing and issues a decision that is independent of the decision made by USCIS. If we the agency does not have jurisdiction over your case, the Asylum Office will issue an I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge, for an asylum-only hearing.

Affirmative asylum applicants are usually rarely detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and may live in the United States while the application is pending before USCIS unlike what we are seeing now.


Even if they are found ineligible, they can remain in the United States while the application is pending with the immigration judge even though most asylum applicants are not authorized to work.

Defensive Asylum Processing

A defensive application for asylum occurs when an immigrant requests asylum as a defense against removal from the U.S. For asylum processing to be defensive, the immigrant must be in removal proceedings in immigration court with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, (EOIR).

Individuals are generally placed into defensive asylum processing in one of two ways:

  • They are referred to an Immigration Judge by USCIS after they have been determined to be ineligible for asylum at the end of the affirmative asylum process, or
  • They are placed in removal proceedings because they:
  • Were apprehended (or caught) in the United States or at a U.S. port of entry without proper legal documents or in violation of their immigration status,


Were caught by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, (CBP), trying to enter the United States without proper documentation, for example, crossing the border illegally and were placed in the expedited removal process. Or were found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture by an asylum officer at the border.

Immigration Judges hear defensive asylum cases in courtroom-like proceedings. The judge will hear arguments from both of the following parties:

The individual (and his or her attorney, if represented)

The U.S. Government, which is represented by an attorney from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE).

The immigration judge then decides whether the individual is eligible for asylum. If found eligible, the immigration judge will order asylum to be granted. If found ineligible for asylum, the immigration judge will determine whether the individual is eligible for any other forms of relief from removal. If found ineligible for other forms of relief, the immigration judge will order the individual to be removed from the United States. Note that the immigration judge’s decision can be appealed by either party.

These are the laws on the book, despite of what Donald Trump says. Know your rights!


The writer is CMO at Hard Beat Communications, Inc. which owns the brands: NewsAmericasNow, CaribPRWire and InvestCaribbeanNow.

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