Continuing troubles in Syria and the Sahara region may prompt more people to seek political asylum in the United States this year. People who seek asylum do so to avoid persecution in their countries of residence. Asylum seekers might be harassed, threatened or subjected to physical harm because of their race, religion, nationality or political affiliation.
Even with the threat of persecution due to ethnicity or political beliefs, getting an asylum application approved isn’t a simple endeavor. The system in the United States is complex and can be confusing to navigate. Here’s an example:
Last year, an Ecuadorean journalist, Emilio Palacio, was granted political asylum in the United States after he was sentenced to a three-year prison sentence and ordered to pay a $40 million penalty for a newspaper column he wrote. The opinion piece was about the military’s rescue of the country’s president, Rafael Correa, during a violent police revolt in 2010. In it, Palacio labeled Correa, “The Dictator.”
Correa filed a libel lawsuit against Palacio and the three owners of the newspaper. After the verdict, Palacio and his family fled to the U.S. where he sought political asylum. In the petition, Palacio said he was “being severely punished in Ecuador for expressing legitimate opinions and subjective interpretations of factual events." He also said he and his family received threats of physical harm by President Correa’s supporters.
Palacio’s request was approved some seven months after it was made.
Not all asylum cases will garner international media attention as Palacio’s did. But each case is unique in its own right, and oftentimes difficult to win. A skilled attorney must help the client first establish he or she meets the definition of refugee, meaning the person can’t return home for fear of persecution. The asylum seeker must also show that the persecution will be inflicted because of one or more “protected grounds.” Those are race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or a political opinion. Last, asylum seekers must show their country’s government is unwilling or unable to provide protection from persecution.
Asylum petitions must be clear, direct and honest, and it must include evidence of what might happen if the person were to return home. It must be backed up by facts, to include photos, media accounts and supporting information from bodies like Amnesty International and the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission.
Compiling this documentation and presenting a well-reasoned, articulate argument to a judge takes the skills and expertise of an attorney experienced in asylum cases. Asylum seekers who need assistance should contact us for assistance with petitions.