Asylum seekers information – updated December 2018

Here is updated information for asylum seekers coming to the United States.

December 21, 2018 update:

asylum updates - Supreme court sealThe Supreme Court of the United States rejected the presidential order to ban asylum seekers who do not come through a port of entry.

The Supreme Court’s decision means the presidential order is not allowed. It means the United States must process asylum claims from people even if they did not come through official border crossings.

December 20, 2018 update:

The Department of Homeland Security says it will return asylum seekers to Mexico while they wait for a hearing on their request.

On December 20, 2018,  Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said asylum seekers “will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico.” The announcement says it applies to “individuals arriving in or entering the United States from Mexico—illegally or without proper documentation.”

What does this mean for asylum seekers?

After you claim asylum, the law says you must be given a “credible fear” interview. The interview is the first step in a request for asylum. If you pass your credible fear interview, you can apply for asylum. The new rule says that then asylum seekers will be “processed by DHS and given a ‘Notice to Appear’ for their immigration court hearing.”  Because of the new rule, you will be sent to Mexico instead of waiting in the USA.

The announcement also says people waiting in Mexico will have access to immigration attorneys and to the USA for their court hearings. But only a small number of asylum seekers will receive asylum at their hearings. The rest will be deported.

December 19, 2018 – two updates:

Update 1
A US judge has blocked the asylum rule change made in June.

On June 11, 2018, former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that people fleeing domestic violence or gang violence in their home countries will not generally be allowed to claim asylum in America. But on December 19, Judge Emmet Sullivan said the new rule was unlawful. He said these migrants are still allowed to request asylum.

What does the judge’s decision mean for migrants?

It means that you have a right to request asylum in the USA for reasons of gang violence and domestic violence. You have a right to be heard before you are deported. But the decision does not mean your request will be granted. Very few people are granted asylum.

Update 2
The US District Judge in California has continued the block on the presidential order made in November.

In November, President Trump signed a new rule saying only asylum seekers who go to a US port of entry can request asylum. On November 19, Judge Jon Tigar stopped the new rule, saying it was against US law. Now the judge has made an injunction that continues his ban against the rule.

What does the judge’s injunction mean for asylum seekers?

The injunction means the judge’s ban on the new rule will continue. It means the United States must process asylum claims from people even if they did not come through a port of entry. But this ruling does not mean that asylum will be granted. It is still very difficult to get asylum in the USA.

The Refugee Center Online supports the rights of asylum seekers to ask for protection in the United States.

November 19, 2018 update: A US District Judge has blocked the presidential order until December 19.

The judge says the presidential order goes against the United States’ law. US law says people on American soil are eligible to apply for asylum. It does not say they have to come through a port of entry. On November 19, the judge said the United States must follow the law.

What does this new ruling mean?

The ruling on November 19 means the United States must process asylum claims from people who did not come through a port of entry. The ruling says these people must be allowed to apply. But this ruling does not mean that asylum will be granted. It is still very difficult to get asylum in the USA.

November 8, 2018

President Trump has signed an order to limit asylum seekers on the southern border of the United States. The new rule says that asylum seekers must go to a US port of entry.

The rule will start at midnight on Friday, November 9. It lasts for 90 days. The new rule does not apply to children without an adult.

What does this mean for asylum seekers on the southern border?

This change means that if people enter the United States anywhere except at a port of entry, they are not eligible to ask for asylum. They may get special protection because of “reasonable fear” (fewer than one in four people get this). But most people will be deported.

What does the new rule mean for people who are already in the US seeking asylum?

The new rule does not affect people already inside the United States or people who arrive on November 9 before midnight.

Will this rule change again?

The laws of the United States say that migrants can claim asylum when they are on American soil, however and wherever they entered. So civil rights groups are fighting against the new rule.

ICE logo update for asylum seekers

June 2018

There has been a change to rules for asylum seekers coming to the United States. On June 11, 2018, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that people fleeing domestic violence or gang violence in their home countries will not generally be allowed to claim asylum in America.

What does this mean for asylum seekers?

This change mostly affects asylum seekers if you are coming to the border between Mexico and the United States. You have probably come from a country where gang violence is making life dangerous. Or you may be a woman leaving a violent home to keep yourself and your children safe. The new rules say you cannot get asylum due to those reasons.

It is already very difficult to get asylum status in America. Most asylum seekers are not accepted. The law says you may seek asylum if you have fear of persecution because of:

• race
• religion
• nationality
• membership in a particular social group
• political opinion

Even if you coming for one of these reasons, it can be difficult to prove to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

What will happen to me if I arrive on the border seeking asylum for one of these reasons?

All asylum seekers who are seeking asylum should understand that they may be held by the US government (forced to stay in a detention center) for many weeks. Some people have been separated from their children when they arrive on the border.  Since June 20, this is not allowed. There are groups working in the US to help parents find their children. But there is very little anyone can do to help you or your children if you are already being held by the US government.

What should I do?

You need to ask for a lawyer. In the United States, you have the right to a lawyer, but you MUST ask for a lawyer. You need to say, “I want to speak to a lawyer now.” Keep asking every person you talk to for a lawyer until you are given access to a lawyer.

What if I pass my interview? Will I still be detained?

If you have passed your asylum interview (called a “credible fear” interview) you will get a hearing in front of a judge to make your case for asylum. It can take a very long time to get a hearing. You should be released from detention while you wait.

However, some detention centers are holding asylum seekers even after they pass their interview. On July 2, a federal judge said ICE must not hold asylum seekers after their interview without a good reason.  If you are being held after you have passed your interview, ask to speak to a lawyer.

Have you been separated from your child?

In some cases, children of asylum seekers have been separated from their parents.

If you have been separated from your parent or child while seeking asylum, call the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  detention reporting information line at 1-888-351-4024. There are Spanish-speaking operators available and it is a free service. Hours are Monday to Friday  8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). If you are calling from inside an ICE detention facility, use speed dial 9116# on the free call platform.

ICE works with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to locate children. You can also call the ORR Parent Hotline at 1-800-203-7001 if you believe the US government has your child. If you are calling from an ICE detention facility, use speed dial 699# on the free call platform. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in Spanish or English.

You (or your friends, family or lawyer) can also contact ICE or ORR by email:

  • Email ICE at Parental.Interests@ice.dhs.gov
  • Email ORR at information@ORRNCC.com
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