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We immigration lawyers often hold up the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of our practice. She holds a beacon that symbolizes the hope and promise that have led so many immigrants to come to the United States. Emma Lazarus dubs her “Mother of Exiles,” who issues a “world-wide welcome” to the “tired,” “poor,” and “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Refugee and asylum law is arguably the area of immigration law most emblematic of this idea of the United States as a land of opportunity and sanctuary for the exiles of other lands.

At Pelton + Balducci, we help our clients navigate through the challenges of the asylum by utilizing our combined 50 years of field experience to passionately and meticulously advocate on their behalf. If you or someone you know is looking for an immigration attorney in New Orleans, contact our team today.

The history of asylum

Refugee and asylum protections were first formalized globally through the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and subsequent 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. 

In its “Introductory Note” to the Convention, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, notes:

“The 1951 Convention, as a post-Second World War instrument, was originally limited in scope to persons fleeing events occurring before 1 January 1951 and within Europe. The 1967 Protocol removed these limitations and thus gave the Convention universal coverage.”

Taking root in the aftermath of World War II, the movement to formalize and expand refugee protections reflected the world’s desire to do better to protect the persecuted and the displaced, and to avoid a reprise of the horrors of the Second World War. 

Prior to World War II, refugee protections were a patchwork of international customs protecting only those facing persecution on account of their political or religious beliefs.  The Holocaust savagely exposed the inadequacy of these protections. Although Judaism is a religious tradition, the Nazis targeted Jews as a people, irrespective of their adherence to Judaism. 

Therefore, the Convention and Protocol expanded refugee protections to those fearing persecution on account of race, nationality, and “membership in a particular social group,” while still protecting those fearing political and religious persecution.

The United States Refugee Act of 1980 sought “to bring United States refugee law into conformance with the [Protocol], to which the United States acceded in 1968.” INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 436–37 (1987). 

It established the framework for admission of refugees and asylees and incorporated the Protocol definition of “refugee” into U.S. law.

Asylum cases in the U.S. today

Although the motivations behind refugee protections have been noble and generous, most asylum cases do not succeed. 

There are two avenues for applying for asylum: 

  1. Affirmative applications, and 
  2. Defensive applications

The asylum applicant initiates the “affirmative” process by filing an application with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An applicant files a “defensive” application for asylum in immigration court as a defense to deportation. 

According to the most recent data available from USCIS, almost 82% of affirmative applications are denied.[1] Similarly, nearly 72% of defensive asylum applications were denied by immigration courts in 2020.[2] 

Numerous factors account for these statistics. Significant legal restrictions have been imposed on asylum eligibility, including a one-year filing deadline for asylum applications and ineligibility for individuals arriving from the U.S. from so-called “safe third countries” (with some exceptions). 

Also, the government often tries to interpret the law in a very restrictive fashion. For example, the question of whether “women” constitute a “particular social group” has been the subject of significant debate, and it still remains an open question.

The procedure also poses an obstacle. The instructions for filing an asylum application are complicated, and a botched procedure can lead to an individual forfeiting their eligibility. 

Cultural and linguistic factors can also undermine an applicant’s case. Adjudicators often determine that an applicant is not credible because of cultural misunderstandings and problems with translation. 

Adjudicators often call into question whether an individual fears harm on account of the protected ground. In other words, even if the adjudicator believes that the applicant is in danger of harm, they will still deny the application if the applicant cannot show that the harm will be imposed because of the applicant’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

How can an immigration attorney help with your asylum case?

For all these reasons, having an experienced attorney guide you in your application for asylum is important. 

Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has consistently concluded through its comprehensive analysis of immigration statistics that “having representation greatly increased the odds of winning asylum or other relief.”[3] In 2020, data analyzed by TRAC revealed that asylum applicants in immigration court represented by lawyers were over 75% more likely to win than unrepresented litigants. 

Asylum cases are some of the most rewarding for the New Orleans immigration lawyers at Pelton + Balducci. It is humbling to uphold the noble principles that arose from the ashes of World War II, when the world recommitted itself to protect the persecuted. 

More immediately, it is our privilege to advocate for asylum applicants who are looking to the United States for protection. These cases are life-changing, and we are moved by the relief and joy our clients feel when they realize that they and their families are now safe to start over without the fear of being removed to the dangers in their homeland. It’s a big part of what makes our jobs worthwhile. 

We would be honored to support you on your asylum journey.





Contact Pelton + Balducci today

At Pelton + Balducci, we have successfully handled many asylum cases, helping our clients navigate everything from VAWA self-petitions to petitions for U and T nonimmigrant status. Our team is fluent in both English and Spanish, and we can work with translators as needed. Call (504) 708-5400 today to schedule your consultation so we can get started on your case.

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