Facts about Asylum

Every year, thousands of migrants arrive to the United States in search of protection. The U.S. government offers asylum to migrants who can prove past persecution or a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ on the basis of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion or national origin.

Individuals granted asylum may reside in the United States and after one year adjust their status to become Lawful Permanent Residents, placing them on the path towards becoming U.S. citizens.

Migrants applying for asylum are known as asylumseekers. Unlike a refugee, an asylum-seeker seeks protection while on U.S. soil.

There was a 44% increase in asylum applications from 2013-2014 in the United States.  More than 121,000 applications were filed in 2014.

The average wait time for asylum adjudication is more than 3 years from date of arrival in the United States.

Challenges Facing Asylum-Seekers

The 1980, Congress passed The Refugee Act, legislation which codified the U.S. commitment to protecting refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. Unfortunately, in the last 30 years, new U.S. laws, policies and practices have undermined the ability of asylum-seekers to obtain asylum protection. Some of these obstacles include:

  • Increased detention of asylum-seekers and other migrants. The government estimates that it will detain over 430,000 immigrants in fiscal year 2011. Detained immigrants, including asylum-seekers, have limited ability to be released out of jail or to access legal representation.
  • The one-year filing deadline. In 1996, Congress passed legislation requiring asylum-seekers to file their application within a year of their arrival to the United States. For migrants who have limited English proficiency, are unfamiliar with U.S. laws, or have suffered trauma, meeting this filing deadline can be challenging.
  • Lack of legal representation for asylum-seekers and other migrants. Migrants in immigration proceedings do not currently have the right to a U.S. government-funded attorney. Legal representation has a significant impact on the outcome of immigration cases. In fiscal year 2010, 54% of migrants with an attorney appearing before an Immigration Judge were granted asylum, while only 11% without an attorney were granted asylum.

Information provided by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. For more information about LIRS please visit their website: www.lirs.org.

Links to other organizations

The Episcopal Refugee & Immigrant Center Alliance (“ERICA”) (www.erica-baltimore.org) welcomes those fleeing injustice, poverty, and persecution in other countries. With our volunteers and community partners, ERICA helps refugees, asylees, and immigrants through educational workshops, material assistance, and one-on-one problem solving (casework).

Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (www.tassc.org) TASSC is a coalition of torture survivors, representing countries and ethnic groups throughout all parts of the world.

Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services (www.lirs.org) For over 70 years LIRS has had a ministry of welcome to the most vulnerable new comers in the United States.