Why is my asylum case taking so long?
Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer, practicing law throughout the United States at our office in St. Louis, Missouri. We’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from people who have filed for asylum in the United States or seeking refuge here in the U.S. and they’re wondering, “Why in the heck is my case taking so long?” They’re a lot of factors to this question and it definitely is worth shooting a video to discuss.
As we shoot this video here in 2017, it’s important to keep in mind that the number of asylum applications has skyrocketed over the last few years. We had the so-called mother and children surge across the southern borders back in ’15 and ’16 where a number of women and children were fleeing violence in places like Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and they had made their way through Mexico to the United States, and that has required a lot of work by asylum officers, and that has stretched an office that is already stretched to the breaking point even further.
The fact is that we do not have enough resources dedicated to adjudicating asylum applications in a timely manner. What does that mean in plain English? It means that the government doesn’t have enough money to process these cases properly and in an efficient manner. Another reason the cases are taking so long is because for many applicants, it’s simply impossible for the government to do what they consider to be proper background checks, and they’re really falling behind in processing these cases.
Asylum applicants from predominantly Muslim countries are seeing their cases take three, four or five years to be adjudicated, and one of the main reasons is is that places like Syria and Iraq, they are not good records that are still available and that prevents the asylum officers from doing their job and determining whether or not the person seeking asylum in the United States is a security risk or not.
Instead of deciding the cases, they’re simply sitting on the cases. We have seen these cases drag on and on. The people are having to apply for work authorizations over and over, and there’s really not any sense of urgency on the part of the asylum offices to get these cases adjudicated. Really in our office the only ones that we’ve seen get adjudicated are cases where the applicants are very old or it’s a female applicant, but basically men from Muslim countries who are seeking asylum are seeing their cases take a very, very long time to adjudicate.
What are the things that we can do to try to move those things along? Really there’s not that much to do. You can send letters. You can contact the asylum office. If you haven’t had your interview, you can ask for an expedited interview or to take a slot from someone whose asylum interview gets postponed because the applicant can’t attend. You can get on the short list and try to attend the interview on short notice.
This carries with it its own risk because you have to be ready to go on basically a moment’s notice, to go and plead your case as to why you think you need asylum in the United States. Short of that, really the only other thing that works is filing a lawsuit against the immigration service, against the asylum office, but because of the great discretion that asylum officers have in deciding these cases, we’ve been very reluctant to file lawsuits on these cases. I think federal judges are going to give the asylum office a lot more leeway then they might in other cases now.
Delays of three, four or five years might be on their very face unreasonable and that might allow a lawsuit to proceed. We’ve had some success with asylum lawsuits. We have another one pending now. We’ve had another one where a guy was waiting for four years. We filed suit, and we got him his asylum approved after two long interviews. For the most part, when you’re applying for asylum, you’re basically asking for a very generous gift from the United States government and they frankly have a lot of leeway in who they give it to. We can complain all we want about these case taking too long, but really there’s not that much leverage short of a lawsuit that lawyers or asylum applicants have.
If you have any questions about why your asylum case is taking too long, or if you’re thinking about applying for asylum and you have questions, be sure to give us a call at 314-961-8200. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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