The Process of Seeking Asylum in the United States


In this file photo of June 1, 1939, the German liner St. Louis is denied entrance to the Havana, Cuba harbor. The ship, carrying 917 German Jewish refugees, was later denied entrance to the United States and returned to Hamburg, Germany. A new book disputes widely held assumptions that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was insensitive to the plight of European Jews under the Nazis, and instead concludes that he tried to arrange resettlement for thousands of refugees in the late 1930s, only to be thwarted by his own State Department. (AP Photo, file)

A background look into a system much left to question

Written by Emily Portalatin Munoz

The process of seeking asylum has always been referred to as the golden ticket to getting into the united states. Most politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that this form of immigration is a valid way of providing help and providing immigration status. But the question arise: Where did this idea stem form? How do you seek asylum? And what are some polices on asylum seekers?

What is Asylum?

In order to understand what seeking asylum means you must know the definition of the words asylum and refugee. According to the American Immigration Council “Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or arriving at the border who meet the international law definition of a refugee”. And according to the United Nations Convention of 1951 a refugee is “a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”. Now that these terms have been defined lets get into the history and current process of seeking asylum in the United States.

Where did the idea of seeking asylum stem from in the united states?

The United states of America started as a place where all immigrants came in search of a new and better life. There were no restrictions of any kind on immigration until the late 1800’s with the passing the Page Act of 1875 and the Chinese Exclusion act of 1882 (The Week, 2019). Then soon after legislators passed a strict quota to “protect” native born Americans in the 1920’s. This quota system gaffe ted thousands of Jews trying to flee the persecution of Germany. The strict quotas left 300,000 people on a waiting list to get to the united states (The Week, 2019). The laws later changed after world war two when many people no longer had a home to call their own. This led to the first U.S. legislation that recognized asylum seekers. This legislation was the Displaced persons Act of 1948. This act helped thousands of people and began the nations history of helping people flee persecution by granting immigrant status.

What is the Asylum Seeking Process like Today?

In order to seek asylum in the current day you must go through an application process. The application process can go one of two ways. Affirmative asylum is the first way. This is an application through the citizenship process and if denied will be processed though immigration court. Immigration court will provide a removal hearing where they can apply for the second method of asylum (American Immigration Council, 2020).

Defensive asylum is when someone seeking asylum is already in the removal hearing process Here the person must provide a defense before the judge on why they are seeking asylum. (American Immigration Council, 2020)

Most people that come to the United States go through the defensive asylum process.

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