Thousands and thousands of people who are already in the United States or at a port of entry seek asylum in the United States every year, but they’re required to meet the definition of being a refugee under international law. A refugee is a person who is “unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” That fear must be reasonable and credible. By virtue of the United States being a party to the international agreement that recognizes refugees, two paths for such status and protection are available for those who are eligible. Those are asylum and removal. They’re entirely different.
Asylum and Withholding of Removal
Applying and obtaining asylee status protects a person from being returned to their country of citizenship. A refugee must apply for asylum with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service within one year of arriving in the United States. It also gives the asylee the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency in the U.S. after one year of being granted such status. Asylees are allowed to work in the United States, apply to bring family members here and avail themselves to other benefits. Some people aren’t legally permitted to become asylees though. Maybe a refugee didn’t apply for asylum within a year of arrival here or was previously deported and returned to the United States, and now, asylum has been denied and removal ordered. That person might still be eligible for withholding of removal due to fear of persecution. Although another deportation order is entered, the immigration judge presiding in the case instructs the government that it cannot follow through with deportation to the foreign national’s country. That doesn’t mean that the individual can’t be deported to a third country, but that third country must agree to accept the deportee. That’s rare.
What Withholding of Removal Doesn’t Do
Although withholding of removal affords some protection, it’s not permanent. It allows the person to remain in the United States to live and work, but he or she won’t be allowed to seek permanent residency or even travel outside of the United States. It’s also unlikely that any petitions to bring family members to the U.S. will be granted. If conditions improve in the person’s nation of citizenship, withholding of removal can be revoked, and deportation can be sought again, even years after withholding of removal has been granted.
Convention Against Torture
Pursuant to the Convention Against Torture (CAT) a third form of protection for those who fear persecution in their home countries is available. It can only be granted by an immigration judge. The person who is seeking protection under CAT has the burden of showing that it’s more likely true than not true that he or she will be tortured if returned to the nation of their citizenship. It must be an extreme form of cruel and inhuman punishment, and it must result in severe pain or suffering. There are no eligibility criteria for CAT. Even those who have been convicted of aggravated felonies in the United States are eligible for protection under CAT.
After a determination has been made that you or a family member are deportable, contact the California Central Valley immigration lawyers right away at Maison Law Immigration Lawyers for a consultation and case review. We’re going to listen to you carefully and advise you of any protections that we might be able to avail you to.