Picture yourself on your average day. You wake up, you have breakfast and as you get ready to go to work you see something on the news you find disturbing. The President has made a decision you don’t agree with and there is nothing you can do about it. Or is there? The United States government is a democracy, so -as a matter of fact- there are a lot of different ways you can choose to express your views. For example, you can openly express support towards a political campaign, attend rallies or even involve yourself in some sort of online political debate (after all, what’s the harm in typing words into a computer… right?).
Now try to picture yourself in a world where all of those previously mentioned political expression options don’t exist. Not because those views aren’t shared or thought of, they just aren’t allowed. Imagine a place where there is severe punishment for sending an e-mail to a friend stating you support a different political campaign than the one in power; a place where your presence at a rally is enough to endanger your life. Think of the government knocking on your front door and walking right in (without a warrant) in search for you and other property showing your support towards a different party. And what happens if they find you? Well, a number of things. You could be warned… or you could be imprisoned and tortured.
The most disturbing part of all of this is that the previous scenario you just pictured exists –and not just for political reasons either. Some countries will persecute people for their race, religious beliefs and nationality. It may not be happening to you, right here and right now, but we assure you it is happening in many other parts of the world. At HRI, we serve many clients who have gone against the odds in their home countries by being involved in parties opposing the one in power; they have practiced their religious faith openly even if the religion is outlawed or disfavored by powerful groups; they have attempted to live a normal, productive life -despite their racial background. in spite of the race or ethnic group they were born into. Some tell the story of how they came to the United States before their government could find them… others have lived to tell a story of escaping much worse –including beatings, imprisonment and torture.
So how exactly do we help people these people? The United States grants asylum to people who are already in the country and are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of past persecution (or well-founded fear of persecution) on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Those who are granted asylum can live and work in the United States legally, and can also apply for permanent resident status one year after being granted asylum.
However, the application and approval process is very complex and often hard for a foreign person seeking asylum to understand. That’s where HRI comes in. We help clients understand and file their asylum applications properly which greatly increases the chances that their application will be granted. We also represent people who turned themselves in at the border and requested asylum or people who have already applied for asylum and have pending removal or deportation proceedings because they were referred to an Immigration Judge by an Asylum Officer.
*for a full visual explanation on how refugees arrive to the United States and the respective procedures to grant asylum, click here*