Archive for the ‘Asylum in the US’ Category

Immigration Statistics 2009

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Immigration Statistics

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New Releases

Nonimmigrant Admissions to the United States: 2009 (PDF, 10 pages – 485.5 KB)
This report examines the number and characteristics of nonimmigrant admissions in fiscal year 2009.

Data on Nonimmigrant Admissions
Access data on nonimmigrant admissions by class, country, and other characteristics for fiscal year 2009.

Refugees and Asylees: 2009 (PDF, 6 pages – 335 KB)
This report presents information on the number and characteristics of persons admitted as refugees or granted asylum to the United States in fiscal year 2009.

Data on Refugees and Asylees
Access data on persons admitted as refugees or granted asylum in fiscal year 2009 by several characteristics.

Naturalizations in the United States: 2009 (PDF, 4 pages – 320 KB)
This report presents information on the number and characteristics of foreign nationals who became American citizens during fiscal year 2009.

Data on Naturalizations
Access data on persons who became American citizens in fiscal year 2009 by country of birth, state of residence, and other characteristics.

U.S. Legal Permanent Residents: 2009 (PDF, 6 pages – 401 KB)
This report provides information on the number and characteristics of persons who became legal permanent residents during fiscal year 2009.

Data on Legal Permanent Residents
Access data on immigrants who became legal permanent residents in fiscal year 2009 by class of admission, country of birth, state of residence, and other characteristics.

The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks and Overseas Travel to the United States: Initial Impacts and Longer-Run Recovery (PDF, 13 pages – 988 KB)
This Working Paper examines whether the initial decline and eventual recovery of overseas travel to the United States during the post-9/11 period varied according to sending countries’ participation in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2009 (PDF, 8 pages – 292 KB)
This report provides estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population residing in the United States as of January 2009 for periods of entry and leading countries of birth and states of residence.


Obama Administration opens Asylum for Victim of Domestic Violence under “particular social group”.

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Political asylum was granted in October 2009 to a woman, seeking asylum based on domestic violence imposed by her husband.

This decision may prove beneficiary to thousands of women, victims of domestic violence, from developing nations.

Jayne Fleming, a lawyer specializing in asylum at the San Francisco office of the law firm Reed Smith, called the recommendation “a giant step forward.” Advocates and immigration judges, Ms Fleming said, “now have some pretty solid guidelines from D.H.S.” –

In 1996, an immigration judge in San Francisco granted her asylum petition, but an immigration appeals court overturned that decision in 1999. In 2001, Attorney General threw out the appeals court decision, but did not grant Ms. Alvarado asylum. In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security, which represents the government in immigration cases, argued for the first time in favor of asylum for her. Attorney General ordered a new review but did not reach a decision. In September 2008, Attorney General sent the case back to the immigration appeals court, encouraging the court to issue a precedent-setting ruling. Such a ruling can come only from an immigration appeals court or a federal court. –

Battered Asylum Seekers May Find U.S. Relief

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

July 22, 2009

by Jennifer Ludden

For more than a decade, U.S. administrations have struggled with whether female victims of domestic violence can qualify for asylum. Now, in a move that could bring the issue closer to resolution, the Obama administration is arguing that yes, it’s possible they can.

In court documents recently made public, a Mexican women identified only as “L.R.” says she was abused repeatedly by her husband starting in 1987. According to the documents, he would put a gun to her head and force her to have sex. The woman’s lawyer, Karen Musalo, says once when her client was pregnant with one of the couple’s three children, her husband set fire to the bed she was in.

“She actually tried to get away from him a number of times by coming to the U.S., and then he came to the U.S. and told her that if she didn’t come back he would kill her family.”

L.R. did go back to Mexico, but came to the U.S. again seeking asylum.

Musalo teaches refugee law at the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco and has long been involved with gender-based asylum. She admits it’s a difficult area. Other asylum seekers must prove a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality or political opinion. But Musalo’s abused Mexican client has to fit into another category.

“She has to meet this sticky, amorphous, confusing legal standard to show that she’s what is called a member of a particular social group,” says Musalo.

That social group is battered women, which is, of course, impossibly broad. But in a legal brief in L.R.’s case, the Department of Homeland Security has laid out how this group could be narrowed.

Musalo says that’s a tall order, but a fair one.

“What she would have to show is that violence against women is pervasive, and that it’s so widely accepted that nobody — neighbors, family members — nobody would intervene or try to stop it, and the government certainly wouldn’t intervene,” Musalo says.

The woman would also have to prove she couldn’t find refuge anywhere else in her home country.

‘Impermissibly Circular’

The DHS stance is based largely on a similar agency brief from 2004 under President Bush. But then-Attorney General John Ashcroft opposed the position, and the cases of other battered women seeking asylum fell into limbo.

“This is a very problematic way to interpret the law,” says Kris Kobach, a counsel to Ashcroft. He now teaches at the University of Missouri. Kobach points out that courts have previously found this definition of persecution to be “impermissibly circular.”

“Basically the battered woman is saying, ‘I’m being persecuted, that is to say, I’m being battered, because I’m a member of a group.’ What’s the group? People who are being battered.” Kobach says.

But the DHS brief explicity addresses this problem, and Musalo says its more narrow definition of this group of asylum seekers will pass court muster.

Kobach says if the Obama administration wants to change policy, it’d be better off going through Congress. A number of countries, including Germany, Spain and Sweden, have passed laws recognizing persecution based on gender or sex. But Kobach has other concerns. He worries courts would get it wrong a lot, ruling on something so private. And he believes it could be hard for courts to appear fair.

“It’s really hard to draw valid distinctions,” Kobach says. “In other words, why do we let this person have a valid asylum claim in the United States but not another person who is in very similar circumstances?”

In a statement, DHS said each case “requires scrutiny of the specific threat,” and the agency is “interested in developing regulations” to help do that.

Musalo’s Mexican client doesn’t go back to court until next spring.


Seventh Circuit Rules that Woman’s Claim of Forced Marriage Can Constitute a “Changed Circumstance” for Asylum Consideration

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that a family’s threats to force their daughter into marriage if she returns to their native country of Pakistan qualify as “changed circumstances” under U.S. law and warrant a review of the woman’s asylum case.
“The Seventh Circuit’s decision recognizes that our client’s case should not be dismissed simply because the conditions of her persecution, as in many cases of gender-based violence, are not connected to a dramatic country-wide upheaval,” said Claudia Valenzuela, a managing attorney at Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center who represented asylum seeker Roome Joseph along with pro bono counsel from Mayer Brown LLP.
At the center of the court’s August 27, 2009, opinion in Joseph v. Holder is its recognition that the “changed circumstances” rule under which individuals can seek review of their asylum cases based on new threats of persecution “does not restrict the concept of ‘changed circumstances’ to some kind of broad social or political change in the country, such as a new governing party, as opposed to a more personal or local change.” The court found that any change in an asylum applicant’s home country that materially affects his or her eligibility for asylum is sufficient to qualify as a “changed circumstance” under the law.
Ms. Joseph, 28, came to the United States with her parents and two brothers in 1998 when the family fled religious persecution in Pakistan because of their Christian identity. While the family waited for their asylum application to be processed, Ms. Joseph adapted to U.S. culture and began to live independently. When her family’s asylum application was rejected, Ms. Joseph’s father informed her that he had arranged for her to marry a man in Pakistan, and would disown her if she refused the marriage. As the Seventh Circuit acknowledged, “The stakes are high for Joseph, as in Pakistan she faces either a forced marriage or the prospect of living as a single Christian woman without familial support, a dangerous path in that country.” Ms. Joseph refused to return with her family to Pakistan and she again applied for asylum in the United States.
When Ms. Joseph re-applied for asylum, she cited the threats of forced marriage and persecution she would face as a single woman in Pakistan as “changed circumstances.” The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejected this application, stating that the threat of forced marriage was a personal situation that did not qualify as “changed circumstances.”  The Seventh Circuit’s ruling overturned that decision and returned the case to the BIA for a full review of the circumstances of Ms. Joseph’s asylum claim.
Read the court’s opinion

The National Immigrant Justice Center, a partner of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, provides direct legal services to and advocates for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.

Clearer Rules Urged For Asylum Seekers

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

System Fails to Protect Women, Study Says

By Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009


Women seeking political asylum in the United States based on gender-related persecution can get mired in a legal labyrinth that can leave their cases unresolved for years, according to a report being released Thursday by the Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit group in Falls Church that works to protect immigrant women and girls from violence.

The center is among several advocacy groups calling for congressional legislation or regulatory action by the Obama administration to clarify the status of women fleeing their home countries to escape gender-specific dangers, such as forced marriage, genital mutilation, honor killings and domestic violence.

Tahirih and two other groups held a briefing on the issue Wednesday afternoon at the Rayburn House Office Building, where Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) agreed the system isn’t working.

“There needs to be far more protection for women and girls. . . . We’re punishing the victim, and it really needs to be changed,” Moran said.

Until the system changes, advocates say, there will be more cases such as the one involving a 23-year-old victim of domestic violence from Honduras. The woman, who now lives in Frederick, has strong evidence that she was beaten and stabbed by the man she was living with, a Honduran police officer.

The woman’s lawyers have compiled a thick case file that includes hospital photographs of her face swollen with bruises, and stab wounds on other parts of her body.

Police in Honduras would not take her complaints seriously, and a women’s center there told her nothing could be done. She fled here after the man threatened to kill her, she told U.S. immigration authorities.

In September the woman learned that an immigration judge in Baltimore had refused to grant her political asylum and the benefits that come with it: monetary and medical assistance, job placement and English-language classes. Instead, she was given a more limited Convention Against Torture protection, allowing her to live and work in the United States as long as the threat in Honduras exists.

Victims of domestic violence seeking asylum must prove they would not be safe in their country. Applicants also must be a member of a persecuted race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group, for example, women in a country where gender-specific violence is tolerated.

In the case of the Honduran woman, “the judge said the domestic violence was not on account of membership in a particular social group,” said Daria Fisher Page, a senior staff attorney at Tahirih.

The woman is appealing the decision, which her supporters say illustrates the system’s shortcomings.

The United States became one of the first countries to make asylum available for victims of gender-based persecution in 1995, but the rules for granting it have never been clear.

In 1996, a woman fleeing genital cutting in Togo was declared eligible for asylum by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Justice Department body that handles asylum appeals.

The landmark decision provided a precedent for other judges to rule in favor of asylum for gender-based persecution.

But in 1999 the board reversed a grant of asylum to a woman fleeing abuse in Guatemala. (She is still waiting for her case to be resolved.)

The Bush administration never acted on the regulations proposed the next year, in the last days of the Clinton administration, affirming that such women could comprise a social group.

Various judges have issued different rulings on similar cases.

This will continue in the absence of clear regulations, said Karen Musalo, professor at University of California’s Hastings College of the Law and director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

This year, the Department of Homeland Security filed a brief in a California case stating that a woman who had been abused by her husband in Mexico was eligible for asylum.

Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said Wednesday that the department “continues to view domestic violence as a possible basis for asylum in the United States.

The issue is highly complex, and we are moving ahead to develop regulations that will address these cases.”

The U.S. government does not keep track of how many women apply for asylum based on gender-related persecution.

Advocates say the numbers remain low, in part because it is so hard for such women to escape their situations and come here.

That belief is shared across the political spectrum.

“Looking at Canada and other countries [that offer such asylum], we don’t see that it opens the floodgates,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, which urged the Bush administration to grant asylum to women fleeing extreme violence.

Besides calling for more sweeping regulations, the Tahirih report recommends removing the one-year deadline for women to file for asylum after arriving in the United States and urges that asylum seekers not be detained.

Must Reads on US Asylum Process

September 20, 2009 Leave a comment
  1. In fiscal year 2007, USCIS received 25,680 affirmative asylum applications and forwarded a copy of each to DOS. DOS and USCIS have determined that the current forwarding process is not an efficient method for the agencies to identify and review cases for which DOS review would yield the most value. To address this problem, this rule permits USCIS, in its discretion, to send affirmative asylum applications to DOS in those cases where USCIS believes DOS would be likely to have information relevant to the applicant’s eligibility forasylum and withholding of removal. Generally, this would be information that is not otherwise available or confirmation of publicly available information, where such validation would be helpful to the adjudication.  Additionally, USCIS and DOS have already implemented an arrangement in which USCIS’s Asylum Division headquarters (HQASM) forwards certain applications to DRL for review and comment. USCIS requires all Asylum Offices to send specific categories of cases to HQASM for further review after the Asylum Office completes its initial interview and preliminary assessment of eligibility. HQASM reviews these cases for quality assurance purposes to ensure that eligibility standards are properly applied. In conducting the quality assurance review, an asylum officer at HQASM seeks DRL comments if the asylum officer believes that DRL could provide information specific to the applicant or the applicant’s situation. This process has proven to be a productive system by which USCIS obtains country conditions information on specific cases. USCIS and DOS intend to maintain this system, which has been in place for several years. DRL applies its country conditions expertise to asylum matters in a  variety of ways, which as a whole are referred to as DRL’s asylum function. Consistent with the regulation currently at 8 CFR  08.11(c), and as will be retained in the amended regulation, DRL responds to requests for comments on cases  pecifically brought to its attention by USCIS’s Asylum Division and by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) immigration judges. DRL also produces updated issue papers or “country profiles” for use in asylum adjudications, and it responds to certain DHS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests for document verification in asylum cases before EOIR. Additionally, DRL is required to provide to Congress annually Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom Reports which provide country conditions information that will continue to be useful to the adjudication of asylum applications. This rule will not alter these DRL functions. This rule also does not affect how USCIS reviews and considers these DRL published reports in asylum adjudications. USCIS will continue to review the aforementioned reports, which provide country conditions information useful to the adjudication of asylum applications. Finally, this rule is limited to 8 CFR 208.11. This rule only addresses submissions of affirmative asylum applications from USCIS to DOS. It does not make any amendments to 8 CFR 1208.11, which governs the defensive application procedure for asylum applications filed by individuals in removal proceedings before EOIR.
  2. An individual in the United States who meets the definition of a refugee may be granted asylum. The following are bars to a grant of asylum: 1. Persecution of others on account of a protected characteristic 2. Conviction of a particularly serious crime 3. Commission of a serious nonpolitical crime outside the U.S. prior to arrival 4. Reasonable grounds for regarding applicant as a danger to U.S. security 5. Terrorist activities 6. Firm resettlement in another country prior to arrival.
  3. Joseph E. Langlois is the Chief of the Asylum Division within the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate. The mission of the Asylum Division encompasses the management of three main programs:  adjudication of affirmative asylum applications, adjudication of applications for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal under Section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), and credible fear screenings for those in expedited removal. In addition, Asylum Officers conduct reasonable fear of persecution or torture screenings and travel overseas to interview and process refugees for the Refugee Affairs Division. The Asylum Division guides and oversees the operations of eight asylum offices
    located in Arlington, VA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; Newark, NJ; New York, NY; and San Francisco, CA. The Asylum Officer Corps consists of approximately 300 Asylum Officers and 60 Supervisory Asylum Officers. Each field office reports to Asylum Division headquarters. The Asylum Division headquarters office is composed of three separate branches. The Operations Branch is responsible for program and procedural development with respect to all programs managed by the Asylum Division, including the affirmative asylum, credible fear, ABC/Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA 203) and reasonable fear programs. The branch develops policy, regulations and procedures and evaluates major Asylum program initiatives. The Management Branch is responsible for oversight of issues related to productivity, logistics and infrastructure. Often coordinating with other Department of Homeland Security and USCIS components, the branch manages finances, statistics, budget, staffing, productivity plans, records, contracts, procurement,
    correspondence, emergency planning, information management, facilities, property, security, labor-management relations and performance appraisal systems. Through its Training, Research, and Quality Branch (TRAQ) the Asylum Division conducts quality assurance, develops training programs and compiles and
    disseminates information on country conditions. TRAQ designs and delivers the mandatory five-week Asylum Officer Basic Training Course for all incoming Asylum Officers. The course covers asylum and refugee law, international human rights law, interviewing techniques, decision-making and decision-writing skills and effective country conditions research skills.


Voluntary Departure vs. Deportation

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Voluntary departure is far more beneficial than a deportation. Voluntary departure helps overcome the obstacles to reenter the US such as 3 or 10 year ban provided that the person departed the US within the prescribed time.

Filing an appeal with BIA may allow one to remain until the case decided. If it fails again, a voluntary departure option is given again, on condition that the appeal was filed timely before the expiry of the first voluntary departure time limit.

Typically, the voluntary departure period begins running on the date of the order. However, when a respondent appeals an immigration judge’s (IJ) decision to the BIA, the filing of the appeal automatically stays execution of the IJ’s order. See Matter of A-M-, 23 I&N Dec. 737, 744 (BIA 2005) (citing 8 C.F.R. § 1003.6(a)). Thus, while an appeal is pending, the voluntary departure period is not running and a respondent cannot be charged with failing to depart.2 If the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismisses the appeal, the BIA’s general policy is to reinstate the voluntary departure order for the same amount of time initially ordered by the immigration judge.3 See Matter of A-M-, 23 I&N Dec. at 744.

Voluntary departure carries a number of benefits.  First, because it  is not a removal order, leaving the United States under voluntary departure does not result in inadmissibility for ten years under INA § 212(a)(9)(A), because of having been removed from the United States.  In addition, since it is not a removal order, it does not subject a person to reinstatement of removal, should that person subsequently enter the United States unlawfully.  Finally, it allows the individual to leave on his or her own, avoiding the stigma of deportation.  Persons who most benefit from a grant of voluntary departure in lieu of removal are those who will ultimately have to travel abroad to obtain their immigrant visas because they do not qualify for adjustment of status.

On the other hand,  if the respondent is granted voluntary departure and does not leave in a timely manner, there are significant negative consequences, outlined below.

The statutory requirements for voluntary departure are found at INA § 240B, and the regulations are found at 8 CFR § 240.25 and 8 CFR § 1240.26.

Also read:


This is Not a Legal Advice. Information is based on the sources/links mentioned above.