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How will immigration reform affect the asylum program?

Many people in Philadelphia are proud of the fact that the United States remains a choice destination for people fleeing violence and carnage in their own countries. Not only is our country an attractive destination, but it also does a lot to protect people of the violence they faced in their home countries, in part through the asylum program. As long as someone has a well-founded fear of persecution based on membership to a specific social group, race, religion, political opinion or nationality, he or she can ostensibly apply for asylum in Philadelphia.

For years, however, there as been a deadline of one year to apply for asylum. No matter if an applicant knew of the deadline or not, or even if he or she had no intention of applying for asylum until a situation changed at home, the deadline disqualified a lot of people from receiving asylum in the U.S. As immigration reform moves through the House, however, there is the chance to change this deadline.

When the Senate passed its own immigration reform bill in late June, the one-year deadline was removed. Unfortunately, the House has decided not to take the legislation up, meaning that they will create their own immigration bill, despite the widespread bipartisan support of the Senate bill. Whether the House decides to keep the asylum deadline or not remains to be seen.

The percentage of people who are accepted for asylum is unknown, but it does not appear to be an easy procedure. Although the country has awarded asylum to 11,980 people since 2003, there were 5,369 requests for asylum in 2009 alone. This year U.S. Customs and Immigration Services expects nearly 50,000 people to apply.

Source: Fox News Latino, "Central Americans Seeking Asylum Quadrupled In Last Five Years," July 17, 2013

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