Why is it important to have an attorney in your asylum case?
Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.
We get often asked... not so much as we used to, but we still get asked every now and then, what value does an attorney bring to a case?
And so in the United States with USIS as being as harsh as it is, we generally advise people to hire an immigration lawyer to help them through the immigration process. But I definitely think it's true when it comes to asylum.
And somebody asked me the other day, why should I have an attorney helped me with my asylum case?
Now this person had actually filed for asylum on their own. And so of course, as lawyers, we always like to be involved from the beginning, because it's usually easier to file a stronger case at the outset than it is to fix the mistakes that someone who files for asylum without a lawyer make.
And so you'll see situations where people will say things the wrong way or they'll frame things the wrong way.
And so it's actually easier for us to start from the beginning as your attorney, but sometimes that's not the case.
And sometimes people hire us or think about hiring us to help them through the rest of the process, which is the hard part.
So in this particular situation, the person had kept a copy of their asylum case and they were wondering, well, what good will it do to have an attorney?
So the case had been pending for three or four years, and of course after three or four years, things in the home country have definitely changed, so you're going to want to update that. So the number one way that a lawyer can help is helping you file an updated submission for your case.
So when you go to your asylum interview and preferably, even before you go to your interview, you're going to want to have the attorney file a supplement.
And that is updating all the country conditions, your particular conditions, highlighting why you fear going back home, why you think you're going to be persecuted.
And the first thing that a lawyer can help with is filing a stronger case or a more updated and recent case. The next thing to think about is that when you apply for asylum, it's really ironic.
You'll wait months and months or even years and years, but at the end of the day, when you do get your asylum interview notice, you might only have five or six or 10 days, maybe two weeks at the outset, at the farthest outline, time would be at the end of two or two and a half weeks.
You usually don't get much notice when you apply for asylum.
So that's another reason why it's important to have an attorney and why you want to do this work that I mentioned of supplementing even before you get that interview notice, because when you get the interview notice, you sort of have to drop everything and work on it.
And it's much better to sort of do it over time. The next place that I think it's helpful for an asylum applicant to have a lawyer is that the lawyers are going to prepare you better for the interview than you're going to get by researching things on the internet or trying to prepare yourself.
There's no substitute to practicing the answers and talking about your case and helping you frame things the right way.
We're not talking about coaching or anything illegal or unethical. What we're talking about is teaching you how to listen to a question, think about your answer and then give your answer.
And so sometimes you might say something just sort of off the cuff that doesn't come across too well. And so talking it through a few times with someone who's been to asylum interviews, to me just makes good sense.
Then of course, the last way that having an attorney with you at your interview is helpful is that usually the attorney is going to be able to make sure that the officer understands what you're saying, make sure that you understand what the officer's saying, making sure there's no confusion between the two.
And then a lot of times I'll ask questions in an interview or I'll make a closing statement or both. So usually if you have a halfway decent asylum officer, they're going to let the attorney participate in a limited degree, I've had some officers sort of walk with me through the application.
And if I see if they feel like they're sort of lost in the weeds or that they need a little bit of context, that they might turn to me and asked me to explain, why are you bringing this fact up, or why is that important or those kinds of things.
So, like I said at the beginning of the video, I think that generally everybody should have a lawyer in immigration.
And again, it's not to get business for us. It's to educate you and to protect you and to prepare you for the interview. But in the asylum context, I definitely think people should have an attorney. So if you're facing asylum or if you have a case that's been pending for a long time, or if you need help, filing a new asylum application, give us a call at (314) 961-8200.
You can email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home.
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