Simplifying Asylum


Asylum is likely one of the most misunderstood areas of immigration law. From the outside looking in some cases may appear relatively uncontested; whereas, others may resemble an intense trial. This discrepancy is based upon how asylum is categorized and the basis for eligibility.

I. Basics

To begin, Asylum is a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed (deported) to a country where he or she fears persecution or harm. (See To meet the evidentiary burned, the applicant can show past persecution or well-founded fear of persecution.

This fear can be supported by evidence demonstrating the countries general conditions or current events. Organizations like UNHCR really support attorneys with the process by creating the following General Country Reports.

General Country Reports
  • Amnesty International: Country Profiles
  • Freedom House: Freedom in the World Report
  • Human Rights Watch: World Report
  • U.S. Department of State: Human Rights Reports

(See Not only do the General Country Reports show current events, but they also serve as a record of how a country changes over time. Therefore, an individual from Country A who is born in a time of stability may not be eligible for asylum despite folks just a few years back being eligible.

II. Categories of Asylum

The second category of asylum cases are referred to as “Affirmative Asylum” and
 “Defensive asylum”. An individual is eligible for affirmative asylum when there is no pending removal proceedings, and naturally, an individual is only eligible for defensive asylum once a removal proceeding has begun. The key distinction here is that defensive asylum applications are subject to time stricter time constraints and judicial scrutiny.

III. Impact

Continuing the example from earlier, not only can people from the same country be viewed differently, but individuals may also face entirely different legal proceedings. Due to this complexity, I see many people who mistakenly believe they are not eligible for asylum.

As an immigration attorney, I will gladly answer any question to the best of my ability. Please contact my office if you would like to hear your options!

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