Chicago Asylum Attorney
Aggressive Legal Representation in Cook County
The United States offers certain protections to asylees and refugees. To qualify as an asylee or refugee, you must demonstrate you experienced past persecution or fear future persecution in your home country (or previous country of residence) on the basis of one of several protected grounds. Asylees and refugees can live and work practically anywhere in the country. They can also eventually obtain green cards, which can provide a pathway to citizenship.
Seeking asylee or refugee status can be extremely difficult. Our Chicago asylum lawyer at Aparicio Immigration Law is a fierce litigator that can serve as your guide and advocate throughout the process. Our track record speaks for itself, as we have an excellent track record for winning cases that require litigation. When you hire our firm, we will work directly with you to understand your situation and build a persuasive and compelling case.
The Difference Between Asylees and Refugees
The term “asylee” and “refugee” are sometimes used interchangeably. While each designation confers similar benefits, they represent different processes for seeking protection from persecution in the United States.
When you seek asylum, you do so when already inside the United States or at a U.S. port of entry. This can be done affirmatively or defensively, and if you are granted status, you will be permitted to stay in (or enter) the country.
When you seek refugee status, you do so remotely. If you are granted status, you receive permission to travel to and enter the United States.
Eligibility for Asylum and Refugee Status
To obtain asylee or refugee status, you must demonstrate you were the victim of past persecution and/or you have a “well-founded” fear of future persecution in your home country or previous country of residence. In addition, you must establish a direct link between this fear of persecution and one (or more) of several protected grounds.
For purposes of qualifying for asylum or refugee status, past or feared persecution must be on the basis of at least one of the following protected grounds:
- Political Opinions
- Membership in a Particular Social Group
“Membership in a particular social group” is a somewhat malleable ground that has historically been interpreted to encapsulate many types of targeted persecution. For example, gendered and LGBTQ-related violence may qualify as persecution on the basis of your membership in a particular social group, with the “social group” being your gender or sexual orientation.
It is also important to note that persecution does not have to necessarily be carried out by a nation’s internationally recognized government. Persecution facilitated by any group that the government cannot or will not control can qualify for purposes of asylum or refugee status.
How To Seek Asylum or Refugee Status
As we explained above, you seek refugee status when requesting protection from outside the United States. You will first need to get in touch with a local representative of the U.S. Refugee Program (USRP) or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These agencies can connect you with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and start initial processing.
After submitting a formal application, you will then need to arrange for financial sponsorship and gather evidence that demonstrates past or feared persecution on one of the protected grounds. A USCIS officer will conduct an in-person interview that assesses your eligibility for refugee status and verifies information in your request for protection.
Depending on your circumstances, you can seek asylum status affirmatively or defensively if you are already in the United States or plan to approach its borders. If you entered the U.S. with or without valid status, you typically have up to 1 year to proactively – or “affirmatively” – request asylum status. However, you must be cautious when affirmatively seeking asylum if you otherwise lack valid status. If your asylum petition is denied, you will likely be targeted for removal.
Asylum can also be sought “defensively” as a removal defense or if you arrive at a U.S. port of entry. If you are found to be eligible for asylum, your new status acts as a defense against removal efforts, and you will be permitted to stay. You are not entitled to free legal representation when seeking asylum defensively, and you may be detained pending a decision in your case.
Successfully obtaining asylum or refugee status involves convincing USCIS or an immigration judge that you experienced persecution or genuinely fear future persecution on one or more protected grounds. Doing so is rarely easy, even if you have plenty of evidence and convincing testimony. Our Chicago asylum attorney can assess your situation and advise how best to move forward when seeking protection in the United States.
Benefits of Asylee and Refugee Status
Asylees and refugees enjoy similar benefits. When you are granted either status, you have the ability to live and work almost anywhere in the country on a semi-indefinite basis (or until conditions in your home country or previous country of residence improve). Your spouse and children may be able to accompany you to the U.S., and you will also be eligible to collect certain government benefits, including Medicaid and Social Security Income.
Asylees and refugees can eventually become permanent U.S. citizens. You become eligible to apply for a green card after one year as an asylee or refugee. Once you have your green card, you must wait an additional 4 years and meet certain other eligibility requirements before initiating the naturalization process.
If you have been a victim of past persecution or fear future persecution on protected grounds, our Chicago asylum lawyer at Aparicio Immigration Law is ready to fight for you. We are familiar with how to navigate these cases and can provide you with the effective and diligent guidance you need and deserve.
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