Articles Posted in Asylum

Published on:

By Furfur [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsRefugees fleeing the ongoing conflict in Syria have been arriving in the U.S. in small numbers for some time, but the issue has only recently gained widespread attention. Much of this attention focuses on alleged threats to U.S. national security, with elected leaders, presidential candidates, and others calling for additional screening of refugees before they may enter U.S. territory. Federal immigration law already requires prospective refugees to undergo extensive background screening, which only begins after they receive formal “refugee” status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The screening process, which is conducted by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and other agencies, can take two years or more to complete.

Background of the Refugee Crisis

The crisis in Syria began in early 2011, with a series of protests against the Syrian government. This eventually led to a civil war between the government and rebel forces seeking to remove the country’s president. The group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) also got involved in the conflict. It now controls large areas of eastern Syria, while the rest of the country is divided between the government and other forces. Estimates of the total death toll exceed 250,000 people. As of December 2015, the UNHCR states that more than 4.3 million have been driven from their homes.

The total number of Syrian refugees that may be admitted to the U.S. during the current fiscal year is set at 10,000, approximately 0.2 percent of the total number of refugees from this conflict. About 2,200 have reportedly already been admitted. By comparison, the UNHCR reports that Turkey currently has over 2.2 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon more than 1 million, and Jordan more than 600,000. European nations have reportedly received more than 800,000 asylum applications from Syrian refugees.

Continue Reading

Published on:

U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThe war in Syria, and the refugee crisis it has created in Europe and elsewhere, has occupied a significant portion of the nation’s attention in recent weeks. With millions of people fleeing violence in the region, other countries are evaluating their ability to take people in and considering issues of security. Recent events, such as the terror attacks in Paris, France in early November, have led some people, including members of Congress, to question whether the U.S. should accept any refugees from Syria. Whether the two matters are related or not, the federal government has a strict definition of who may qualify for refugee status and an extensive system for screening prospective refugees. It is worth examining how this system works.

Refugee Status in the U.S.

Under federal immigration law, the President has the authority to determine the total number of refugees the government may admit during a fiscal year, after “appropriate consultation” with Congress. 8 U.S.C. § 1157(a)(2). For fiscal year 2016, which began on October 1, 2015, the President has authorized the admission of up to 85,000 refugees, with further allocations for different regions of the world. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must maintain a “current numerical accounting” of the number of refugee spots still available. 8 C.F.R. § 207.6.

The “Near East/South Asia” region, which includes Syria, may account for up to 34,000 spots in fiscal year 2016, and the President has specifically set aside 10,000 spots for Syrians. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill purporting to place additional restrictions on Syrian refugees, but no companion bill has passed in the Senate.

Continue Reading

Published on:

By Apsu09 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe U.S. immigration system offers certain protections to immigrants who would face persecution because of certain characteristics in their country of origin. Immigrants can affirmatively apply for asylum, but if they are already involved in removal proceedings or subject to an order of deportation, they must submit a defensive petition for asylum or withholding of removal through the immigration courts. The Ninth Circuit recently issued a ruling suspending the deportation of a transgender Mexican immigrant, finding that she is likely to face torture if she were to return to Mexico. Avendano-Hernandez v. Lynch, No. 13-73744, slip op. (9th Cir., Sep. 3, 2015). The case involves both federal immigration law and an international treaty.

The respondent is originally from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. She began expressing her female gender identity at an early age. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling describes “years of relentless abuse that included beatings, sexual assaults, and rape,” Avendano-Hernandez, slip op. at 4, including physical and sexual abuse by members of her own family. She unlawfully entered the U.S. in 2000 from Mexico after one of her brothers threatened to kill her if she did not leave. She “struggled with alcohol abuse,” id. at 6, and was convicted of driving while intoxicated twice in 2006. After serving a sentence for felony DWI, she was deported in 2007.

Back in Mexico, the respondent again faced harassment and abuse from her family and others. She returned to the United States in 2008 after she was raped by a group of uniformed police officers. She was sexually assaulted by a uniformed military officer on the way to the U.S. In 2011, she was arrested for violating probation in her 2006 DWI case and placed in removal proceedings again.

Continue Reading

Published on:

By WPPilot (Own work) [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe United States has long viewed itself as a beacon of freedom and hope for the rest of the world. The Statue of Liberty stands atop a pedestal bearing Emma Lazarus’ famous words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Living up to these words is always a challenge, and those who advocate for immigrants seeking a better life in America often find themselves standing against a state that finds it easy to lock people away. A federal judge recently issued an important ruling affecting over 1,000 immigrant parents and children in the custody of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The judge ordered most of the children released under a settlement agreement that took effect in 1997. The government has until late October to comply.

More than 68,000 people, many of them children, were taken into DHS custody at or near the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014. Some were apprehended trying to cross the border, while others surrendered to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials and requested asylum. Most of these people were fleeing crime and civil unrest in Central America. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) adopted a policy of detaining families headed by a female adult, including children, for the duration of any proceedings to determine if they qualify for immigration benefits. It is currently holding about 1,400 parents and children in three detention centers, one in Pennsylvania and two in Texas.

The current legal proceedings began as a class action filed by the National Center for Immigrants’ Rights (NCIR) and the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), Flores v. Meese, No. 2:85-cv-04544 (C.D. Cal., Jul. 11, 1985). Litigation from 1985 to 1991 resulted in rulings that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) policy “to strip search all juvenile aliens upon their admission to INS detention facilities, and following all visits with persons other than their attorneys” violated the Fourth Amendment. Flores v. Meese, 681 F.Supp. 665, 666 (C.D. Cal. 1988), rev’d 934 F.2d 991 (9th Cir. 1990), aff’d en banc 942 F.2d 1352 (1991). The Supreme Court reversed this ruling, finding the INS policy to be “a reasonable response to the difficult problems presented when the Service arrests unaccompanied alien juveniles.” Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 315 (1993).

Continue Reading

Published on:

By en:User:Stbalbach (w:en [1]) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons“Asylum” is an ancient legal doctrine that allows an individual who faces persecution in their home country to seek refuge in another country. The practice by medieval churches of offering sanctuary to accused criminals is, in many ways, a direct ancestor of asylum law in the United States, although the practice of granting asylum to foreigners may date back to ancient Egypt or earlier. In the U.S., a person may make an affirmative application for asylum, in which case an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes a determination. Or they may claim asylum as a defense against deportation, which means they must present their claim to an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). If granted asylum, the person may be able to adjust their status to permanent residence and later apply to become a naturalized citizen.

Under the right to sanctuary, an accused criminal could seek refuge in a house of worship, such as a temple in ancient Rome or a church in medieval England. Since these places were considered sacred, even in a legal sense, state authorities could not arrest a person who had been granted sanctuary. This specific doctrine no longer has any legal force in most of the world, but the right of asylum draws on some of the same principles.

A common claim for asylum involves fear of punishment for acts that are permitted in the host country but are deemed illegal in the refugee’s home country. People fleeing communist countries during much of the 20th century, for example, sought asylum in the U.S. and its allies to avoid prosecution—or summary punishment—for acts like speaking out against the government, which are considered to be fundamental rights under U.S. law.

Continue Reading

Published on:

Usnaturalization.jpgThe New York Times reported the story of a man who came to the United States from Pakistan as a child, faced possible deportation several times, and finally became a U.S. citizen after years of waiting. Mohammad Sarfaraz Hussain came to the U.S. with his mother, and remained here after she died. He became fully “Americanized,” according to the Times, but the nation’s response to the events of September 11, 2001 put him and others in a difficult position. He was required to register with the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a now-defunct program created as part of the “War on Terror.” He avoided deportation and obtained asylum. By enduring some of the worst the immigration system has to offer and becoming a citizen, Hussain offers quite the success story.

According to the Times story, Hussain’s uncle, a physician in Queens, New York, petitioned for an immigrant visa for his sister, Hussain’s mother. As her minor son, Hussain would share her immigrant status. While the petition was pending, she was diagnosed with cancer and traveled to the U.S. on a tourist visa for treatment, bringing eight year-old Hussain with her. Hussain’s mother died in New York, and he overstayed his visa to remain with his uncle. His father died of a heart attack in Pakistan when he was fifteen. Another relative petitioned for an immigrant visa for Hussain, but the September 11 attacks occurred while it was pending.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), created NSEERS in 2002. The program required certain nationals or citizens of various countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia to register with INS. This included male nationals of Pakistan who were over the age of fifteen at the time. 67 Fed. Reg. 77136 (Dec. 16, 2002). NSEERS was heavily criticized as a form of racial profiling that was both offensive and ineffective. The Department of Homeland Security began scaling the program back as early as 2003, and effectively ended it in 2011. Hussain registered with NSEERS in early 2003, and managed to avoid deportation when massive public support led ICE, which had by then replaced INS, to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” and dismiss the case.
Continue Reading

Published on:

Map_of_Central_America.pngOver 52,000 children, mostly unaccompanied by parents or guardians, have entered the United States via the U.S.-Mexico border this year after fleeing crime and violence in Central America. The majority of the children, according to news reports, have presented themselves to Border Patrol agents, but the sheer number of people is overwhelming the government’s ability to handle them. The issue has become highly politically charged. While some people view these children as undocumented immigrants subject to ordinary removal procedures, others want them treated as refugees, especially considering the situation in their home countries. The laws that apply to this situation are complicated, but important to understand.

The United Nations has called on the government to designate the children as refugees. Federal immigration law defines a “refugee” as someone who is outside of their home country and cannot return due to persecution or a “well-founded fear of persecution.” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42). The persecution must be based on a protected category, which includes race, religion, national origin or ethnicity, membership in some other group, or political opinion. A person must must also establish a “well-founded fear” in order to obtain asylum. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) further defines a refugee as someone from an area that is of “special humanitarian concern to the United States,” and who would be otherwise admissible as an immigrant. To obtain refugee status, a person must normally go through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

The children arriving at the border are mostly coming from countries in Central America that are experiencing substantial crime and unrest, particularly Honduras and El Salvador. San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city in Honduras, has become known as the “murder capital of the world,” with a murder rate between 169 and 193 per 100,000 inhabitants. By contrast, New York City’s murder rate is 5.1 per 100,000 people.
Continue Reading

Published on:

bay 5451New Jersey police and prosecutors are standing up for Charbel Chehoud, a 40 year-old Lebanese immigrant facing imminent deportation, saying that his help in solving a murder case was crucial and should entitle him to remain in the United States. Federal immigration officials do not agree, arguing that Chehoud has physically resisted previous deportation efforts, the New York Daily News reports. Chehoud, who is engaged to a U.S. citizen, is detained at the Essex County Jail and is currently awaiting an appeal.

Chehoud helped law enforcement solve the 1999 murder of Michael Augulis, who drowned on a fishing trip when two men, who knew he could not swim, threw him into Sandy Hook Bay. The case was originally ruled an accident. Chehoud had no involvement in the incident and did not know the victim. In 2006, one of the men who had been on the boat, a former co-worker of Chehoud, told Chehoud what had happened. According to Chehoud, the people on the boat that day had “sworn to secrecy,” but the man had to get it off his chest. Chehoud went to police with the information, who proceeded to arrest the two men. They pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Had Chehoud not come forward, police say, the case would have remained an “accident.”

Chehoud was born in Lebanon and moved to Germany when he was five years old. He came to the United States in 1989. Once here, he applied for asylum for fear of religious-based persecution (Chehoud is a Christian) and married a U.S. citizen. Chehoud’s marriage ended before he could obtain legal permanent residence. A judge ruled against his asylum claim and ordered him deported. Law enforcement officials in Monmouth County involved in the Augulis murder case have come forward to ask immigration officials not to deport him. Police in Jersey City have requested a witness visa for Chehoud. Chehoud’s attorney has asked for Chehoud’s release so he may finalize his divorce and marry his fiancee. He has an appeal pending, but that will not stop immigration officials from deporting him if they decide to.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents allege that Chehoud has physically resisted deportation on five separate occasions. They describe his conduct as “physically and verbally disruptive.” ICE’s policy is to prioritize deportation of people who “obstruct immigration controls.” An ICE spokesman claims Chehoud assaulted an ICE officer last week. Chehoud argues that deportation would be the end of his chances to stay here, saying that “you can’t fight it from the outside.”
Continue Reading