Asylum in the United States

Adrian J Johnson, Esq. Profile Image

Adrian J Johnson, Esq.

Metuchen, NJ

Every year people come to the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, and even political opinion. The U.S. recognizes the right of asylum of individuals as specified by international and federal law. A specified number of legally defined refugees, who apply for refugee status overseas, as well as those applying for asylum after arriving in the U.S., are admitted annually. As per my research, since WWII, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation, and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980. In addition, during much of the 1990s, the United States accepted over 100,000 refugees per year, though this figure has recently decreased to around 50,000 per year in the first decade of the 21st century, due to greater security concerns. As for asylum seekers, the latest statistics show that 86,400 persons sought sanctuary in the United States in 2001 according to my recent findings. I also discovered that before the "September 11 attacks", individual asylum applicants were evaluated in private proceedings at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services aka (INS).

While doing further research, I noted that between 2004 and 2007, nearly 4,000 Venezuelans claimed political asylum in the United States and almost 50% of them were granted. In contrast, in 1996, only 328 Venezuelans claimed asylum, and a mere 20% of them were granted. According to USA Today, the number of asylums being granted to Venezuelan claimants has risen from 393 in 2009 to 969 in 2012. Other references agree with the high number of political asylum claimants from Venezuela, confirming that between 2000 and 2010, the United States have granted them with 4,500 political asylums. This ultimately leads me to believe that political asylum has become very practical in our country, although, not all foreign countries may share the same achievement in obtaining this protection. I have noticed a steady improvement in the entire asylum process as a whole, which will greatly favor those in need.

Now, despite this, concerns have been raised with the U.S. asylum and refugee determination processes. A recent empirical analysis by three legal scholars described the U.S. asylum process as a game of "refugee roulette"; that is to say that the outcome of asylum determinations depends in large part on the "personality" of the particular adjudicator to whom an application is randomly assigned, rather than on the "merits" of the case. The very low numbers of Iraqi refugees accepted between 2003 and 2007 exemplifies concerns about the United States' refugee processes. The Foreign Policy Association reported that "Perhaps the most perplexing component of the Iraq refugee crisis... has been the inability for the U.S. to absorb more Iraqis following the 2003 invasion of the country. To date, the U.S. has granted less than 800 Iraqis refugee status, just 133 in 2007. By contrast, the U.S. granted asylum to more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam War." I felt thankful upon discovering this information, and I couldn't help but to think how lucky I am to be American and enjoy the privileges that I have. This entire process is seen as a way for the rest of the world to refuge to our country during "difficult times" and I strongly agree with its true intentions to help; my support will always be there.

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