What does USCIS mean when they talk about “persecution” of people applying for asylum?

People often call our office to talk about asylum.  But they are not sure what the government considers to be “persecution” when figuring out whether or not someone would be persecuted if they returned home.

In asylum cases, persecution means harm or suffering inflicted upon an individual in order to punish the individual for possessing a belief or characteristic that the person causing the harm or suffering does not like.

The intent of the person inflicting the harm is not relevant.  The true question for the immigration officer is whether or not the harm rises to a serious enough level to equal persecution.

Persecution can mean more than physical harm or the threat of physical harm if it rises to a serious enough level.  Non-physical harm includes deliberately denying someone’s liberty, food, housing, employment or other essentials of life.

Various courts have defined persecution as well.  One federal court in Chicago defined it as “infliction of suffering or harm for political, religious or other reasons that [the U.S.] does not recognize as legitimate.”

In order for actions to rise to the level of persecution, they must rise above the level of mere harassment.  Another federal court explained that for conduct to be persecution, it must “rise above unpleasantness, harassment and even basic suffering.”

There is no requirement that an individual suffer “serious injuries” for them to have suffered persecution.  At the same time, the existence or absence of physical injuries is a factor to be considered.

This discussion demonstrates just how important it is to frame your asylum application in the best way possible.  If you have any questions or need assistance with your own asylum application, please feel free to give us a call at (314) 961-8200.