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Migrant caravan sparks new conversations around asylum

Asylum seekers are making headlines in the United States after 2,000 migrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in a caravan on January 14. These migrants join thousands of other travelers who hope to receive asylum status.

With the prevalence of immigration in American media, many residents question how migrants receive asylum status and how it protects them from traditional deportation techniques in the United States.

What does asylum mean?

Every year, thousands of people come to the U.S. to seek protections because they suffer persecution or fear of persecution due to:

  • Religion
  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a specific social group
  • Political opinion

Asylum also applies to those seeking refuge for dangerous conditions in their country of citizenship. For example, many migrants from Honduras fear the growing presence of gangs across the country itself. There are also those seeking protection from specific situations such as domestic abuse.

With the protected status, people stay in the United States on a temporary basis with a spouse and children. It doesn’t require a specific visa or citizenship, but migrants still have to apply for Asylum within a year of arrival to the states.

How do you apply for asylum?

Travelers complete a form I-589, application for asylum and withholding of removal. It does not matter if you came to the states illegally, but you cannot be currently in removal proceedings or commit certain crimes in the U.S.

Applicants go through an interview process and security check before any decision is made. If you are accepted, you may bring your spouse and children with you – no extended family such as siblings or parents.

If you are rejected, you can seek asylum again once circumstances have drastically changed. However, you will want to consult with competent legal counsel before approaching the application for a second time.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber