The term “asylum” has been in the news a lot lately. A judge recently rebuked the president’s policy that has forced an Ivory Coast citizen to remain detained for the last three years while he has sought asylum. Stories like these have caused many people to ask, “What exactly is asylum?”
Ultimately, seeking asylum is a perfectly legal way to enter the United States. It is a protection provided to foreign nationals who are able to prove they have a genuine fear not allowing them to return to their homeland. The person has to provide evidence of the legitimate fear of returning home. Most of the time, this fear relates to one’s political affiliation, religion, nationality or race. Under United States law, a person who has received asylum may remain in the country without fear of deportation. While in the country, a person under asylum may apply for work and travel abroad.
Where can you apply?
According to U.S. law, anyone coming into the country has the right to apply for asylum. The person may do this at any point of entry, which can include an airport. However, a person may also request asylum when crossing the border. Although crossing the U.S./Mexico may be illegal, it is fine for an immigrant to ask a border agent for asylum. In general, a decision regarding asylum will come in about 180 days. In the event asylum status is successful, the person may begin to apply for work in the United States.
What happens to asylum seekers as they await a decision?
There has been much debate about what to do with asylum seekers as they wait for a decision from the courts. While U.S. law states these individuals can remain in the country, recent government decisions state law enforcement has a right to detain these individuals. In 2016, the government granted over 20,000 individuals asylum status.