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Most asylum seekers arrive in the United States with few possessions and a complex legal case. For many, making it to the United States means safety from persecution, torture, and sometimes death. But with their arrival in America, asylum seekers also face a new odyssey as they attempt to navigate complex U.S. immigration laws and an increasingly restrictive environment that bars many bona fide asylum seekers from obtaining protection. These challenges include:

  1. Summary removal procedures that frequently result in asylum seekers being denied the chance to seek asylum because of quick proceedings that lack due process.
     
  2. Prolonged detention of asylum seekers. Despite an ICE policy directive issued in 2009 that supports releasing asylum seekers who pass an initial screening, many bona fide asylum seekers are subject to lengthy detention. Detention is particularly damaging for asylum seekers, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are in acute need of the support of family and community.
     
  3. The one-year filing deadline, an arbitrary deadline that requires most asylum seekers to establish by “clear and convincing” evidence that their asylum applications were filed within one year of their arrival in the United States, or demonstrate that their applications were delayed due to a narrow set of changed or extraordinary circumstances. Asylum seekers who cannot meet these requirements, even if they are refugees with well-founded fears of persecution, are barred from asylum protection and while they may be eligible for lesser forms of protection, they are unable to reunite with their spouses and children or obtain permanent status in the United States.

NIJC advocates to eliminate these injustices and for reforms that uphold the United States' legacy as a refuge for men, women, and children seeking freedom from persecution and preserve American ideals of due process and human rights.

NIJC Resources on the Right to Asylum

  • Summary removal infographic: Learn about the process and its consequences. View the infographic.
  • Petition for rulemaking: In August 2015, NIJC filed a petition for rulemaking, asking the Obama administration to adopt new regulations clarifying that anyone eligible to seek asylum has the opportunity to do so, even if their prior removal order is reinstated. Read the petition.
  • Civil rights complaint: In November 2014, NIJC filed a DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties complaint on behalf of nine noncitizens who were denied the chance to seek asylum because of expedited removal orders. This complaint focused on the ways that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deprived individuals of the right to seek asylum. Read the complaint.
  • Federal Litigation: In 2012, NIJC represented Yesenia Maldonado-Lopez before the Ninth Circuit, arguing that Ms. Maldonado-Lopez should be allowed to seek asylum despite her previous expedited removal order. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) of the San Francisco Bay Area were amici in the case. Ms. Maldonado-Lopez’s case resulted in settlement, but NIJC continues to press this issue at the appellate level. NIJC, along with AILA and LCCR, filed amicus briefs on this issue in the Third, Eleventh, and Ninth Circuits. NIJC has a pending case raising this issue in the Ninth Circuit and is preparing to raise it in other venues. Read more about the case.

Recommendations

  • Eliminate summary removal procedures that lack due process and prevent asylum seekers for pursuing existing protections. All asylum seekers should have the opportunity to present their case to an immigration judge, including those who have previously been deported.
  • DHS should release asylum seekers on parole in accordance with the 2009 ICE policy directive.
  • Congress must repeal the one-year filing deadline to ensure that refugees are not denied protection based on a technicality. The deadline is unnecessary, arbitrary, and a violation of the U.S. government’s commitments to refugees’ basic human rights.
  • Appoint counsel to everyone in immigration proceedings. Access to counsel is critical to help people, especially children, individuals in detention, and vulnerable populations, navigate the complex immigration system.