As has been true since the pilgrims came from across the Atlantic, people have come to the United States for protection. Some of our clients have faced war and genocide, or have been targeted because of their religion or sexual orientation. Others have fled gangs or drug-trafficking organizations, or abusive partners or parents.
Other clients require protection when in the United States. Some were here when disaster struck their home countries, whether an earthquake in Central America or Ebola in West Africa. Some are fleeing abusive homes within the United States. Others have been the victims of trafficking or of violent crimes.
Fortunately, and despite the current political environment, U.S. immigration law provides protection and relief for many people throughout the world facing any number of threatening circumstances. Please read more about these applications below.
Asylum laws are much narrower than the average person believes. Even if a person faced very serious harm in their home country, that person may not qualify for asylum.
In order to establish eligibility for asylum, an applicant must demonstrate either that she was subjected to past persecution (harm, ill-treatment, abuse, torture, beatings, etc.), or that she has a well-founded fear of future persecution if forced to return to her home country. The persecution must be on account of one of five statutory grounds – race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group. Social group is the most flexible of these grounds and may include such things as a person’s sexual orientation, HIV status, past employment, suffering of domestic violence, suffering of female genital mutilation (FGM), and more. In addition, the applicant must demonstrate that the government is either unable or unwilling to protect her from this persecution.
Adding an extra layer of complication, the law generally requires a person to have filed an application for asylum within that person’s first year in the United States. There are a limited number of exceptions to the one-year filing deadline.
Asylum law is an ever-changing and very detailed area of practice. The Board of Immigration Appeals and the federal courts regularly issue new decisions which, for example, change the contours of acceptable social groups, or define what makes an applicant credible or not.
Our attorneys regularly appear before the Asylum Offices and the Immigration Courts while fighting for asylum for our clients. We have successfully appealed denied decisions to the Board of Immigration Appeals, and to the Courts of Appeals. We are committed to seeking protection for those who seek to escape from harm.
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women’s Act. The Act offers a variety of protections for survivors of domestic violence, whether the survivor is male or female. One of those protections is the ability of a person who has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty at the hands of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent to file a visa petition on their own behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This allows the applicant/survivor to escape the control of the abusive spouse or parent; she no longer has to rely upon him to resolve her immigration status. In addition, once a person files a self-petition alleging abuse, the Immigration Service is prohibited from relying upon information provided solely by the abuser to take any negative action against the applicant/survivor. This takes power and control away from the abuser.
To qualify, the applicant must be present in the United States and the abusive spouse must be or have been a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen. The marriage must also have been in good faith, meaning not for immigration purposes, and the couple must have resided together, if even a short time. The applicant must demonstrate that he or she possesses good moral character, and that he or she was battered or suffered extreme cruelty.
In addition to these self-petitions, there are a variety of other types of protection in the immigration laws. For example, some waivers are available only to survivors of domestic violence, and some waivers are more generous. In removal proceedings, there are special provisions of cancellation of removal available for some survivors.
Congress has recognized that foreign nationals are often targeted by criminals, and that victims must be able to report the crimes and fully participate in the investigation and prosecution without fear of deportation. Therefore, Congress created a visa known as a U visa. Victims of certain crimes committed in the United States may be eligible for a U visa. Importantly, the victim must possess information about the crime and must have been helpful to the law enforcement agency and/or prosecutor’s office. The victim must have suffered substantial harm as a result of the criminal activity.
In addition, not every crime will allow its victim to apply for a U visa. Congress has listed certain crimes that qualify. They include the following:
Crimes similar to those listed may also qualify. Because all 50 states have varying criminal laws, often the names of the crimes will vary from those Congress listed, but the crime will still qualify.
In addition, because of the importance of the assistance victims render to police, waivers in the U visa context are very generous. Many issues which cannot be waived when, for example, applying for a green card through a spouse, can be waived by a waiver application submitted with a U visa.
A successful U visa application will result in a non-immigrant visa valid for four years, and work authorization valid for the same period. Though the U visa is a non-immigrant visa, there is an opportunity to apply for permanent residency (a green card) after three years in that status.
All too often, disaster strikes the shores of a country. Whether it be an earthquake in Honduras, Ebola in Guinea, or war in Syria, there may be relief available. The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country’s nationals for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to conditions in that country that prevent a foreign national’s safe return, or where the country cannot hand the return of its nationals. These conditions may be an ongoing armed conflict, a natural disaster such as an earthquake or typhoon, an epidemic, or other extraordinary conditions. When designating a country, the Secretary will set a beginning and end date for the status, which is most commonly an 18-month period. The Secretary may renew the designation if conditions in the foreign country have not adequately improved. Most recently, the Secretary designated Yemen for such status, as a result of the ongoing armed conflict within the country.
Other countries recently designated include Nepal, Syria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Haiti. Countries that have had the designation renewed for a number of years include El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
Applicants for TPS must meet various eligibility requirements including, importantly, presence in the United States on a certain date, and submission of an application by a certain deadline.
When you are in need of a helping hand contact, Kriezelman Burton & Associates can help. Call us at 312-332-2550 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation. Contact us now to learn more about how an experienced Chicago, IL immigration attorney can help your protection-based claim.
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