Pennsylvania residents who have navigated the immigration process in the United States understand how challenging such situations can be. Many have been able to reach out for support as they become productive members of society in their new homelands. Others, however, have arrived at the border, fleeing imminent danger and violence, seeking asylum and hoping the U.S. government will protect them.
If a survey were conducted in Pennsylvania, asking immigrants why they came to this nation, answers would no doubt vary. Many would likely include stories of fleeing homelands from abject poverty and imminent violence. In fact, a young woman in another state says she escaped El Salvador under similar circumstances and, after recently winning asylum, is now in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.
A federal court judge in California is expected to rule on whether the immigration detention centers in Pennsylvania and Texas should continue to hold families with children. If the judge finds that holding the families is unconstitutional, more than 2,000 mothers and children who have come to the United States seeking asylum could be released from the three detention centers.
Pennsylvania residents may be interested in learning more about some of the recent changes affecting asylum and immigration status in the United States. According to the House Judiciary Committee, between 2007 and 2013, there was more than a 585 percent increase in the number of people granted asylum into the United States. By the end of 2014, there were more than 415,000 cases involving non-detained asylum cases still awaiting review by immigration court.
Pennsylvania residents may be interested to know about the latest development regarding immigration policy. On Feb. 20, a judge put a halt to a government policy that detained mothers and children who sought asylum in the United States. Past policy was to allow those who met the standard of credible fear to remain free while their cases were being heard unless they posed a specific threat to others.
Asylum is a special legal privilege the government may grant to certain people who intend to stay in Pennsylvania or another part of the U.S. for a prolonged period because they fear to return to their country of residence due to the possibility of persecution or torture due to their race, nationality, religion, political opinion or connection with a social group. There are two basic processes for being granted asylum depending on the person's present condition.
Many people who come to Pennsylvania from other nations do so to flee dangerous situations or persecution in their home countries. Their continued residence in the U.S. is a matter of preserving their safety from other people in their home countries or from their governments.
Individuals applying for asylum in Pennsylvania must meet certain burdens established by statute and enforced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The general rule is that any alien may apply for asylum as long as he or she is physically present in the U.S. That rule is subject to exceptions in some cases for individuals who fail to apply within one year of arrival, who have been previously denied asylum or who may be removed to a safe third country. There are further exceptions based on the prior conduct, perceived danger or other attributes of the applicant.
Pennsylvania residents may recall media coverage of laws adopted in Uganda that outlawed homosexuality. The legislation, which was signed by Uganda's president in February 2014, included serious penalties for sexual activity between same-sex couples. According to media outlets, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Sept. 11 that a prominent Ugandan LGBT rights advocate's request for asylum was recommended for approval pending a background check. Since the anti-homosexuality bill came into effect in Uganda, the 41-year-old is believed to be the first LGBT rights advocate from that country to seek asylum.
The Justice Department's Board of Immigration Appeals ruled on Aug. 26 that victims of domestic abuse could qualify for asylum. The ruling came after a Guatemalan women claimed that she entered the country illegally in 2005 to escape her abusive husband. She also said that the police would not respond to her calls for help. The ruling in the case was not contested by the Department of Homeland Security, and an attorney for the woman says that she believes that she will ultimately win her case.