U.S. Immigration Policy on Asylum Seekers
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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The United States has long held to the principle that it will not return a foreign national to a country where his life or freedom would be threatened. This principle is embodied in several provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act INA, most notably in provisions defining refugees and asylees. Aliens seeking asylum must demonstrate a well-founded fear that if returned home, they will be persecuted based upon one of five characteristics race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Aliens present in the United States may apply for asylum with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau USCIS in the Department of Homeland Security DHS after arrival into the country, or they may seek asylum before a Department of Justices Executive Office for Immigration Review EOIR immigration judge during removal proceedings. Aliens arriving at a U.S. port who lack proper immigration documents or who engage in fraud or misrepresentation are placed in expedited removal however, if they express a fear of persecution, they receive a credible fear hearing with an USCIS asylum officer and if found credible are referred to an EOIR immigration judge for a hearing. In FY2003, there were 42,114 claims for asylum filed with USCIS, and by the close of the fiscal year, there were 262,102 asylum cases pending at USCIS. The USCIS asylum officers approved 11,434 cases in FY2003, and the percentage of cases approved was 29 of cases decided. Generally, over two-thirds of all asylum cases that EOIR received were cases referred to the immigration judges by the asylum officers. The percentage of EOIR asylum cases approved was 37 of cases decided in both FY2002 and FY2003. At the end of FY2003, there were 158,624 cases pending for asylees to adjust to legal permanent resident LPR status.
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