What is Asylum?
Since 1994 the U.S. Department of Justice has allowed individuals who are persecuted because of their sexual orientation to seek sanctuary in the United States through a process called political asylum.
A non-United States citizen can seek political asylum in the United States if they have a fear of being persecuted in their country of origin because of their political opinion, religion, race, national origin, or membership in a particular social group. For example, people seeking asylum based on their sexual orientation or status as a transgender person usually apply based on their membership in their social group, their political opinion, or their religion. Individuals who are fleeing are in danger from their community, their government, their families, or their church. If granted political asylum, individuals have the right to remain in the United States and the right to family reunification (with spouse and children). Eventually, they have the right to apply for U.S. citizenship.
About Asylum Seekers
Asylum seekers are one of the most vulnerable groups of immigrants in America. Forced to flee their homeland, most arrive in the United States without any protected legal status. When they arrive, they cannot legally work in the United States. Many arrive traumatized, suffering from acute depression and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Asylum seekers are not entitled to a free attorney from the government if they cannot afford one. Often, if immigrants are low-income, they are left to navigate a foreign legal system without a lawyer. This has a significant effect on the outcome of their case. Studies have shown that such individuals are much less likely to succeed in their legal cases without legal representation. Programs like the LGBT Human Rights Protection Project of Lutheran Social Services seek to level the playing field by providing legal representation and consultation to these individuals.
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