New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

The Truth About Seeking Asylum In The United States

Author: US Asylum lawyer Alena Shautsova

Immigration into the United States of America is no doubt putting a lot of strain on the government, people, and organizations involved in handling immigration issues. In like manner, the immigrants are not finding it easy. The nation they thought was supposed to hold the fulfillment of their great dreams now seems like the killer of those same dreams.

Unlike some European countries, the United States does not provide any benefits for asylum seekers. You will not get food stamps, cash assistance or free housing while your application for asylum is pending. Your application may be pending for years, and you are expected to support yourself and your family members during this time. Thanks to the US laws, every child who is present in the United States has a right to be enrolled in a public school. But that’s where the rights are pretty much end, unless you find some local or community help while your application is being considered. The only “help” perhaps that an asylum seeker may count on, would be an ability to receive an employment authorization once your case has been pending for 180 days. On a positive side: it is relatively easy to find employment in the United States once you have employment authorization. It may be not a high-paying job that you will find, but it will be a job that under Federal Labor laws guarantees at least minimum wage (which varies from state to state above the minimum federal level and can be paying anywhere from $7.25 to $15.00 per hour). Importantly, the United States labor laws protect workers from discrimination, violations of overtime and minimum wage requirements regardless of their immigration status. Another important thing to know is that in certain situations, serious violations of the labor laws may serve as grounds for a T (human trafficking) or U (victim of a crime) visas.

But while you are in the United States waiting or your court hearing, you need to be prepared for the frustration caused by court backlogs, expensive cost of living, and insufficient access to free legal services.

Consider the story of Adri Fernandez recently reported in one of the major US newspapers.

Adri Fernández is making a lone effort to start his American dream with his Venezuelan ID card, newly donated shoes, and clean clothes. Fernández is one of the single adults arriving without family to turn to or connections willing to help him get on his feet after he was released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This contrasts with the families and unaccompanied children who have been the main groups migrating to the U.S. over the past ten years.

Fernández ended up in San Antonio because immigration officials determined that's where he should go there. He is currently waiting for hearings regarding his request for asylum. He was transported by a stranger from Laredo, Texas, approximately 200 miles away.

At Immigration, people began questioning me when I arrived at my destination. The 26-year-old Fernández added, "I said it with all honesty that I had no family here and nowhere to go. Does San Antonio work for you? they asked as they gave me an address. I responded, "Yes."

How to assist the rising number of asylum seekers like Fernández is a problem that San Antonio and other cities, including Washington, D.C., and New York, are currently working to solve.

Being one of 15 migrants who spoke to reporters in a situation similar to his own, he said, "I don't have a dollar to survive on." However, Fernández asserted that he has faith in "the American dream, which is to labor and lift your back." On August 25, Fernández has his first meeting with ICE; on March 5, 2024, he will appear before an immigration court for the first time. If he does not appear, his deportation could be decided upon before he has a chance to defend himself. About half of the migrants who are served by Catholic Charities, a division of the San Antonio archdiocese, are adults who are unmarried and have no contacts in the country. According to the group, in recent years there have been more of these arrivals.

To make sure that you have your day in court, one must be aware of how US immigration services and authorities work and what they expect of you. One such expectation is that you will inform the authorities where you will be residing at all times. After people “cross the border” and are detained by ICE, they need to provide an address where they will be residing if released. In many cases, such an address would be an address of a non-for-profit organization helping immigrants, or an address of a “sponsor” a person who vouches that will help the immigrant. But in reality, a person would not be physically residing at that address. Many do not know that they must update their address with ICE once they “move”. They never update their address, and never receive proper notices of upcoming hearings as a result and your explanation that you simply did not know that you must update your address will not serve as an excuse. If Immigration court conducts a hearing without an immigrant, the court will have to issue a default order of removal. That is why it is extremely important to always update your address with ICE, immigration court. You can do so by filling out for EOIR 33 for Immigration court (with a copy to OPLA), and by updating your address with ICE directly. Note: updating your address with ICE only (if for example you have to report ICE appointments), will not automatically update your address with Immigration court as well. In other words, you must update your Immigration address with each Immigration agency separately. Another way to stay on top of your court hearings, is to check EOIR automatic system online:

Finally, your chances of winning your asylum case directly depend on if you are represented by a lawyer. “  the odds of being successful if unrepresented was much lower (17.7%) than for represented asylum seekers (31.1%) in FY 2020” per. So, in general, you have only 30% chance to win your asylum case ( often it is a result of misunderstanding as to who is eligible for asylum), but if you do not have a lawyer, your chances drop down significantly. It is so because lawyers stay on top of the changing laws, have responsibility to provide quality services, not to miss deadlines, and file the documents in a proper format. Believe it or not, presentation matters a lot in Immigration court, and improperly filed documents get rejected and simply will never make it into your file. You most likely would like to avoid that.

If you are researching how to file your asylum case in the United States, visit our asylum resources page, that contains asylum library, and simply guides on what is needed to submit your case. Remember, that the process will differ depending on if you are in Immigration court (defensive filing) or not (affirmative filing). If you need help, and thinking about hiring a lawyer, give us a call at 917 885 2261.

05 August 2022
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