The Asylum Process in DFW
Application and Interview with an Asylum Officer in Houston
- Gather Evidence: The asylum seeker spends time gathering all the evidence they can to support their case for asylum, such as medical records, prison records, birth and death certificates, newspaper articles, eye-witnesses testimonies, expert witnesses etc.
- Application: Asylum seekers then complete and mail in the I-589 form, the application for asylum, which includes the evidence and their story. Asylum seekers have a one year filing deadline from the date of entry.
- Asylum Interview: USCIS gives the asylum seeker an interview date with an Asylum Officer in Houston. The interview may occur several months to several years after the application was filed with USCIS.
Asylum seekers often have to return to Houston a couple of weeks after the interview to receive the decision. Some are granted asylum in Houston, and this ends the process. In 2019 there were 340,810 affirmative asylum cases pending with USCIS and only 27,643 were granted (12%).
Only asylum seekers who arrive in the country with a valid visa or have not come into contact with immigration officials, are eligible to begin their asylum process with the affirmative interview.
There are many avenues asylum seekers take to enter the United States: Some are able to travel to the US on visas, such as business or student visas. Others travel to South America to embark on the long and dangerous journey to the United States. Many aren’t planning on coming to the United States at all, but for some reason arrive at a destination besides where they paid to go and can’t afford a course correction. Most asylum seekers must flee their country at a moment’s notice, alone, and in total secrecy. Therefore, once they are in the United States, many do not have a plan about where to go and what to do next. Only a lucky few have family or friends of family in the United States whom they are able to contact for support.
After entering the country, asylum seekers have twelve months to file an application, complete with substantial evidence of their persecution, declaring their request for asylum, and initiating the legal process to prove that they are truly fleeing for their lives.
Twelve months may seem like a long time to file a case, but consider these facts:
- Very few asylum seekers can afford legal representation to assist them in filing.
- Asylum seekers are not provided with social workers to help them understand what is required in the application or to translate for them if they speak a foreign language.
- Asylum seekers must get evidence from a home country that is currently putting their life in jeopardy–many governments and contacts in their home country are unwilling to provide help or are dangerous to reach out to. These and other factors contribute to the length of time it takes to correctly file a claim for asylum in the United States.
After filing a claim for asylum, they are faced with yet another wait: the wait to apply for a work permit. As of late August 2020, asylum seekers must wait 365 days from the date of filing for asylum to apply for a work permit, then they wait several months to receive it. The process from when an asylum seeker arrives in the United States to when they receive their work permit often takes two years or more. During this period, asylum seekers are not eligible for any assistance from the federal government.
This is why many of these educated, hard-working, courageous victims of injustice, who came here for safety, end up here on our streets–this is what DASH Network hopes to change!
The chart above provides a detailed explanation of how asylum works in the United States.
Asylum cases are considered affirmative when the applicant applies through USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). They are not in immigration court proceedings because they came into the country on a valid visa or have not yet had any contact with immigration officials that would place them in immigration court proceedings. Affirmative asylum cases are decided by asylum officers, not judges.
Asylum cases are considered defensive when an immigration court judge decides the outcome of the case. Cases can end up in court if they were referred from the asylum office or the person was already in immigration court proceedings because they came to the United States without a valid visa.
Source: HRI Online