What is asylum?
Asylum is a form of protection that allows you to stay in the USA if you have been persecuted or fear persecution in your home country because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Persecution is a form of serious abuse that harms someone’s life or freedom. It includes severe physical harm, forced medical or psychological treatment, unlawful detention or punishment, severe economic harm, extortion, robbery, severe discrimination, harassment, or threats of harm.
Is it legal to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border?
Yes, it is legal to seek asylum at the border. International and U.S. law gives everyone the right to request asylum in the United States and at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Learn more about how to apply for asylum.
Why are asylum seekers being turned away?
The U.S. government changed the way they process asylum claims during the COVID-19 pandemic. Border officials have turned back many asylum seekers and separated families under regulations called Title 42 and Migration Protection Protocols (MPP). These laws make it dangerous and difficult for migrants seeking asylum at the border.
Title 42 is a public health law that allows the U.S. government to close the border to certain travel during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has been used to turn away people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border who do not have valid travel documents to enter the U.S.
Migration Protection Protocols are known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. Under MPP, the U.S. returned asylum seekers at the border to wait for their asylum hearing in Mexico.
On May 20, 2022, a federal judge ruled that Title 42 will remain in effect for now. The Biden administration plans to appeal the court’s decision. On August 8th, 2022, MPP was stopped.
Due to Title 42, all ports of entry are still closed to migrants without proper documents to enter the U.S.
If you are already in MPP, you will be disenrolled when you return for your next scheduled court date. It is extremely important you attend your next court hearing so you cancel your enrollment in MPP. Make sure to ask for a continuation as a case no longer under MPP when you go to your appointment.
If you already know what your address will be in the United States:
- Fill out the Change of Address (blue) form at the court
- Tell the judge you are asking for a Change of Address and a Change of location
- Bring all your belongings with you
If you are scheduled for an individual hearing, you must ask for a continuation to cancel your registration under MPP. The judge will ask you why you are asking for a continuation, here are some examples:
- Missing evidence
- Need time to get an attorney
- Have not been able to translate all the evidence due to a lack of resources
- Had problems that prevented you from preparing adequately
- Have not been able to communicate with a witness and need more time
Can I seek asylum if Border Patrol apprehends me?
If a Border Patrol agent takes you and you are fearful of returning to your country, tell them you fear returning and want to apply for asylum. You will likely be put in a detention center while you make your case under credible fear.
An asylum officer will conduct a credible fear interview to learn more about your fear of returning. You may remain in a detention center while you wait.
What is expedited removal?
Expedited removal allows immigration officers to quickly decide if a person should be deported. Border officials can remove certain people from the U.S. rather quickly and without appearing before a judge.
You can be placed in expedited removal proceedings if you entered the U.S. without a valid entry document (visa, border crossing card, or passport) or with false entry documents.
Expedited removal is not allowed for unaccompanied children.
|If you say that you want to apply for asylum or have a fear of persecution, you have the right to a credible fear interview. You should not be removed from the U.S. until an asylum officer decides whether you have a credible fear and can apply for asylum. Some people are still removed without an interview even though this is a right.|
What is the credible fear interview?
The credible fear screening will happen over the phone or in person with an interpreter. An asylum officer will ask you four questions to see if you have a credible fear of persecution. Your answers will help them decide if your claim is strong enough to go forward with an asylum interview or immigration hearing.
- Why did you leave your home or country of last residence?
- Do you have any fear or concern about being returned to your home country or being removed from the United States?
- Would you be harmed if you are returned to your home country or country of last residence?
- Do you have any questions or is there anything else you would like to add?
- Be honest and explain all the important details.
- Keep good notes. Write down key dates to make sure you tell your case correctly each time. If you change a part of your story accidentally, it could negatively affect your case.
- Seek legal advice. Immigration officials will give you a list of free or low-cost legal service providers that can help you prepare for your credible fear interview.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may detain you until you have your credible fear interview. In most cases, you will have to wait days or weeks in detention for your credible fear interview.
If the asylum officer decides you have a credible fear they will either:
- Consider your case further in a second interview called the Asylum Merits Interview
(you will not need to file Form I-589)
- Give your case to an immigration judge to review as a defensive asylum case
(you will need to file Form I-589 within one year of arriving in the USA)
If the asylum officer decides you do not have a credible fear, you can ask an immigration judge to review their decision in a hearing.
If you do not ask for a review, ICE will remove you from the United States.
An immigration judge will review your case. If the judge disagrees with the asylum officer, you will be able to make your case in an immigration court hearing. If the immigration judge agrees with the asylum officer, ICE will remove you from the United States.
How can I get help?
The asylum process is very complicated. It is important to review your options for legal help. Many organizations and lawyers offer free or low-cost legal services and support.
You have a better chance of getting asylum with the help of an immigration attorney or accredited legal representative. They can help you complete your application and prepare for your interview or hearing.
Type of help
A free app and website to search for legal help near you.
Help for those detained in Arizona.
1845# from a detention facility phone
A website to search for legal help by detention facility.
Freedom For Immigrants offers free help for those who have been detained.
9233# from a detention facility phone
Find free help if you have been separated from a child or family member.
Help for those who have been sexually assaulted in a detention facility or elsewhere.
Find free help if you have been separated from a child or family member.
Available 24 hours a day.
699# from a detention facility phone
Find free help for refugees and asylum-seekers detained in the United States.
#566 from a detention facility phone
Get updates about your case.
Get information on family members and basic case information. Report problems while in detention such as sexual or physical abuse.
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Other organizations that are helping people at the border include:
Catholic Community Services
Lutheran Family Services
Become an Asylum Advocacy Project (ASAP) member to access further resources.
The information on this page comes from the Department of Homeland Security, non-profit organizations working at the border, and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible.
USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice.