The U.S. Government offers protection to those fleeing political, religious, or social persecution under two basic sets of laws:
Refugee law and Asylum law. The legal test for both groups is the same – both must prove a “well-founded fear of persecution” for their political opinion, race, religion, nationality or membership to a particular social group in their home country.
Individuals who apply while they are in the United States are asylum applicants.
A foreign national who is already on US soil or at its borders can apply for asylum if they meet the definition of “refugee”.
A “refugee” is someone unable to return to their home country (or in the last place lived) because of past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
The conception of well-founded fear of persecution is central to asylum.
What are its key elements?
The key to an asylum claim is proving that you face a well-founded fear of persecution for one of five reasons: race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a “social group”. Or you qualify because you can prove you were forced to undergo sterilization or an abortion or fear genital cutting. This well-founded fear standard does not necessarily mean torture, killing, imprisonment, or harassment or that you are specifically targeted for persecution or that you have an economic hardship or a repressive government.
You must be very clear about why you fear persecution. You can make a case by convincing the court that you have suffered persecution in the past and that the conditions in your country have not changed. Or you can show that it is likely you will suffer persecution if returned to your country. Your own testimony may be enough if it is compelling, consistent, believable, and specific. Your case is strengthened if you bring corroborating proof, such as newspaper articles, affidavits of witnesses or experts, journals, books, doctors’ statements, photographs, etc., to the hearing.
The courts recognize the difficulty asylum applicants face in proving a claim. It can be an emotional nightmare for those traumatized by events that forced them to flee their homeland. Simply having a discussion in the first place and in a language that they are grappling to learn are often daunting tasks. Many cannot stomach the discussion and questioning. It is for these reasons that we don’t advocate representing yourself; get professional legal advice.
Information Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service