Articles Posted in Asylum

With the recent escalation of armed conflicts in countries like Iraq and Syria, many seek to escape the war-torn areas in search of safety and freedom. The freedom of religion and political opinion that is greatly cherished here in America, is the cause of violence and turmoil amongst the Muslim nations in the Middle East.   In both Iraq and Syria, the ongoing tension and division between the Sunni and Shiite’s has many seeking refuge.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the ancient religious divide is helping fuel a resurgence of conflicts and the struggle between Sunni and Shiite forces have fed a Syrian civil war and spurred violence that is fracturing Iraq. This violence includes kidnapping, torture, rape and executions of civilians.

In a recently released report by Amnesty International, which covers human rights violations, it was revealed that Iraqi people are not only suffering from atrocities committed by ISIS militants but also from the armed government-backed Shiite militants. The report claims that the Iraqi government is responsible for the attacks on the civilians since the Shiite militias that target Sunni Iraqis, do so in response to the ISIS attacks. As a result, the ongoing cycle leaves the Shiite civilians targeted by ISIS, whereas the Sunni Muslim’s in Iraq are trapped between the Shiite Militia, the government and ISIS militants who attack anyone that opposes them (including the Sunnis).

Amid the spread of fear and question marks here in America over the recent ISIS attacks, it may be good to take a second to recognize what happens when a refugee of any kind attempts to cross into American borders.

The refugee vetting process has several key checkpoints that any and all refugees must pass in order to enter the United States. The Homeland Security Department handles the process to allow refugees to enter the country, a process which forces incoming refugees to take fingerprints and submit in-person interviews overseas, where they are forced to provide even the most intimate details of their lives abroad. These details include information on their families, friendships, activities both social and political, their employment and other personal information.

Although the process of identifying Syrian refugees through documentation can be difficult, since many don’t have the necessary documentation to begin with, Syrian refugees have said that they often are forced to bring family records would often do the job for almost any other refugee from another country.

Refugees from all countries are screened by several different agencies, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, where they are first referred to whichever country that makes the most sense for resettlement. If that’s the United States, they are then screened by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center and then finally the Department of State. Refugees from Syria, in particular, are then subject to additional screening. All of this takes between 18 to 24 months before a Syrian refugee is approved for admission to the United States.

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History, numbers show U.S. politicians “solutions” for Refugees not ideal

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France on November 13, many American politicians have come out with their takes on whether or not Syrian refugees should be allowed to enter the country and applied for citizenship through refugee or asylum status. Many, especially those on the right, have shown their true colors by speaking out against allowing refugees from a war-torn country to enter the United States. It is clear that many of those in positions of power here in America are against the United States taking the “tired, poor and huddled masses,” to quote Emma Lazarus.

The United States House of Representatives passed a bill on Nov. 19 that would stall the program that allows Syrian refugees into the U.S. with a vote of 289-137. Of the 289 votes, 242 of them were Republicans who cited “national security” as the main reason for denying Syrians the right to refuge. The vote had enough of a majority to pass even after a potential veto from President Barack Obama. Although the Senate could still vote against the bill, it is clear that President Obama is one of few politicians on Capitol Hill that see Syrian Refugees for what they are: refugees looking to escape a terrible home for a better one. Before the vote took place, Republican Senator Elaine Morgan wrote an email to her colleagues suggesting that Syrian Refugees be moved to a “refugee camp” if admitted to the United States; as if to say we still lived in 1942. Morgan also wrote her own special commentary of the Muslim religion, saying their philosophy is to “murder, rape and decapitate anyone who is non-Muslim.”

One particularly puzzling case is that of Mayor John Cranley. Cranley, who recently discussed future plans for Cincinnati becoming one of the most “friendly cities” for immigrants in the next few years, had a less-than-humanitarian take on Syrian refugees in a statement following the Paris attacks:

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children-crossing-2-1209887-m.jpgResidents of Iraq and Syria have a somewhat rare opportunity in their wide ability to receive asylum in the United States. The process by which this may occur could be onerous for some, but it frequently is resulting in total U.S. immigration success. Those granted asylum may apply for permanent residence if the situation that led to their approval does not resolve itself within one year. For many who are asylum eligible, the only true difficulty is finding a way to reach the United States. Once there, the granting or denial of asylum will be based on how potentially dangerous it would be for the foreign national if he or she is sent back (among some other factors).

Since 2011, several locations across North and East Africa and the Middle East have become destabilized. This has paved the way for radical groups with oppressive ideologies to organize and in several cases seize whole territories. Perhaps chief among those is the Islamic State (IS). Not surprising considering its former name; the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the group is the dominant force in many sections of those countries. In these sections, national authorities have little to no control, and those with the great misfortune of living in them are trapped with little to no reasonable means of escape.

Foreign Nationals are eligible for U.S. asylum in most cases only if they prove that they have a “reasonable fear” of serious persecution primarily on the grounds of “race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a social group.” The persecution must be shown to either be coming from one’s government or from forces that it is unwilling or unable to stop. It is not in serious dispute that IS counts as one of these groups. Thus, anyone who enters the United States with a reasonable fear of falling into IS’s hands if sent home is eligible. A “reasonable fear” for the purposes of asylum is an apparent likelihood of at least one to eight that the alien will be persecuted on one of the listed grounds.

cgress.jpgSome bad bills that may adversely affect our clients (and immigrants in general) are being put forth by the House of Representatives. We do not believe that any of these bills stands a good chance of becoming law, but it is important for the public to know what Congress is up to.

The “Legal Workforce Act:” HR 1147

This bill would harm tens of thousands of qualified workers by requiring their prospective employers to put them through the clunky at best and unreliable at worst E-Verify system. The system is a way for U.S. employers to check to see if their potential hires are qualified to work in the country. Though the system has existed for almost 20 years, errors are alarmingly frequent. In 2012, one half of one percent of attempted uses of the system resulted in its erroneously reporting that a foreign national was ineligible to work. This seems small, but because this mandate would affect 30 million new cases each year, around 150,000 people can expect to lose a chance at employment because of it.

166430_isole_nel_mediterraneo_prison.jpgHow much torture or other mistreatment must you show in order to qualify as having been “persecuted” as defined in the immigration law? The answer is that it would seem there really is no bright line definition. Rather, a foreign national’s asylum case could likely depend upon the subjective opinion of what a government official thinks persecution does or doesn’t mean. When presenting an asylum case, don’t simply rely that a government official will sympathize with your situation. It is necessary to properly research similar successful cases in order to have a strong case.

For a foreign national to be eligible to be granted asylum in the United States, the person must establish that he or she has suffered past persecution as a result of membership in one of a number of protected groups that include race, religion, nationality, particular social group, or political opinion.
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952313_gavel.jpgThe United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently denied a foreign national’s application for asylum last month because it did not demonstrate past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution.

Pedro Garcia-Colindres, a foreign national of Guatemala, had entered the United States without legal authorization along with his wife and son in 1994, and filed an initial application for asylum shortly thereafter. The US then began removal proceedings against him in 2005. He then filed an updated asylum application in 2006, which also was a request for withholding of removal.
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320px-Garage_des_Nations_03_11.jpgTo commemorate World Refugee Day, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducted special naturalization ceremonies at locations around the country beginning June 18, 2012. The new citizens are all former refugees who settled in the United States, most through USCIS’s process for refugee immigration.

World Refugee Day features events held around the world, coordinated by United Nations officials, intended to raise awareness of refugee issues and promote laws and cultural shifts to help refugee populations. It began with a resolution of the UN General Assembly on December 4, 2000. The first World Refugee Day occurred on June 20, 2001.
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Fedmap4The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on May 1, 2012 that it will extend Somalia’s eligibility for temporary protected status (TPS) for eighteen months from its current expiration date. The government cited the ongoing “disruption of living conditions” in the east African nation due to severe drought conditions, armed conflict, and political instability. Somalia has had TPS status since September 16, 1991, and was redesignated in 2001. The extension allows individuals currently registered as TPS to re-apply, and it allows individuals who are from Somalia but present in the United States to obtain TPS for the first time.

Somalia is a country in east Africa with a population of approximately 10 million, according to the U.S. State Department, with land area making it slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Of its total population, about 2 million people live in the region of Somaliland in the north, which seeks international recognition as a separate, independent country. The country has endured decades of civil war, but its current troubles began over twenty years ago, when the national government collapsed in 1991. Various factions, supported by a variety of foreign governments and organizations, have fought for control of the country ever since. A severe drought began in the spring of 2011, leading to widespread famine and a worsening refugee situation in neighboring countries. The United States has contributed millions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Armed conflict continues as well, according to the State Department, with neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia sending troops into the country in the past year.
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ellis island flag.jpgSecretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have made temporary protected status (TPS) available to Syrian nationals effective March 29, 2012. This means that Syrians, who were in the United States as of March 29, 2012, are eligible to stay in the United States for eighteen months and can receive a work authorization document allowing them to work in the US through September 30, 2013. Attorneys from the Law Firm of Shihab & Associates will make themselves available to all persons who have questions regarding this form of humanitarian relief.

Time Frames and Deadlines for TPS
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