THE OPPRESSED AND PERSECUTED SEEK ASYLUM IN THE U.S.
Throughout its history, the United States of America has been the safe haven for those seeking refuge from persecution and the oppressed. In its early days, the migrants were seeking a place where they would not be persecuted for their religious beliefs and political opinions. As such, these enlightened individuals founded a country based on “freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In the 20th century, the U.S. served as a safe haven from those fleeing the wars in Europe and the brutality of Nazism.
Today, on our southern border, the migrants seeking the promise of the U.S. are fleeing the oppression and violence in Central America. They include women and children walking thousands of miles seeking a better future; the future promised in our Constitution and Laws. The United States asylum laws provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution and mistreatment in their homeland. The law provides that anyone at the border may request asylum and should not be summarily turned away or even worse prevented by tear gas from legally seeking to request an interview.
The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act provides that a person is eligible for asylum if he or she if unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Persecution encompasses a broad range of acts and may include infliction of harm or suffering, serious violations of human rights, detention coupled with physical torture, severe economic deprivation coupled with discrimination and harassment, and certain other severe mistreatment. The persecutor may be either the government or a group or individual that the government is unable or unwilling to control.
There are two methods to become eligible for asylum; past persecution and well-founded fear of persecution. Once a showing of past persecution is made, a rebuttable presumption of well founded fear of persecution is created and the burden shifts to the government to show by a “preponderance of evidence” that there have been a fundamental change in circumstances such that the applicant no longer has a well-founded fear of persecution or that the applicant could avoid persecution by relocation to another part of the country.
If the applicant has not suffered past persecution he or she must have a subjectively genuine fear of future persecution that is objectively reasonable. Documentation and expert testimony regarding country conditions and circumstances can be very helpful. To establish a well-founded fear of persecution, an applicant need only show that persecution is a “reasonable possibility.” However, the fear albeit from past persecution or well founded must be “on account” of the applicants race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
These legal obligations must be met before anyone is granted asylum and no one should be denied they opportunity to show persecution or due process of law.