A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Refugee Cap Slashed to Record Low 30,000

The number of refugees to be admitted next fiscal year is now capped at 30,000. This is a substantial decrease compared to this year's cap of 45,000 and a new record low. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement recently, citing that the country should prioritize its current backlog of asylum seekers.

Since 1975, the United States has been offering asylum through its refugee admissions program to those that qualify. Refugees are generally defined by the U.N. as those that have left their country due to persecution, war, or violence. The legal definition of a refugee is someone who is fearful of returning to their last country of residence due to persecution suffered or a "well-founded fear" of future persecution because of religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

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Under the U.S. laws, asylum seekers are those who meet the U.N. definition of refugees and also a hose of additional legal requirements that have been developed in the U.S. courts. Asylum seekers are refugees that request protection in the United States. They may be applying at a border of entry or within the United States. Those applying at the border, usually during expedited removal proceedings, do so defensively by claiming they have credible fear of persecution or torture. They then undergo a credible fear interview to see if they meet the definition of a refugee. Those that are in the country and are undergoing removal proceedings may also apply defensively for asylum. If these applicants prove they have credible fear, they will not be removed and instead will gain legal protection as refugees. Those legally in the United States may apply affirmatively for asylum. If denied, they will legally remain in the country until their visa expires. Denials may be appealed to an immigration judge, who will refer the case for a full hearing if he/she finds credible fear.

All asylum seekers bear the burden of proof of meeting the legal definition of refugees in order to receive legal protection and assistance. This is through showing that they had already been persecuted in the past or that they have a well-founded fear that it would happen to them. Persecution is abuse by the government or people that authorities will not or cannot control. Asylum seekers must show the mistreatment is because of religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. They also have to have their biometrics taken and undergo a series of background checks.  If the case is approved, the applicant gains asylum and may also apply for permanent resident status at a later date. 

Next year's cap does not mean 30,000 refugees will be accepted. The actual number has been less than the allowed cap in the past years. Given the tight immigration restrictions of this administration, the number of refugees is predicted to be far less. Only 20,918 refugees have been admitted this fiscal year, which is less than half of the 45,000 cap.

Unfortunately, it will be harder for asylum-seekers to gain asylum and stay in America. Although denials can be appealed to immigration court, BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals), and a federal court, those without legal status will be removed if their asylum claim is ultimately denied. The current administration will continue tightening immigration law and perpetuating an unfriendly environment.

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