Seeking asylum

(Part 2 of 2)

Asylum applications are filed to avail of protection in the United States due to persecution or fear of   persecution “due to race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular group” in the country of origin.  Asylum is sought by aliens already present in the United States.  Aliens who are outside of the U.S., apply for refugee status.  The  President’s revised Executive Order (03/06/2017), suspended  asylum and refugee visa applications  for 6 countries, namely: Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan for national security reasons,  These countries are designated as “state sponsor of terrorism”, active combat zones of groups known as ‘extremists’ or are considered as “safe havens” of terrorists.

Recent  violent attacks occurring around the world are claimed by or done in the name of terrorirism. Members of terrorist groups have  become adept at assimilation that the vetting process by the government has to be reviewed and re-assessed for efficacy and potency. Any national from these 6 countries are subject to this suspension (waiver is available on a case by  case basis).  Apart from them (so sad), the option to seek asylum and apply for refugee status is available.  Asylum and refugee status can pave the way to gaining U.S. citizenship.  The U.S. has  always been a benevolent country.  It is not only welcoming to  aliens  seeking   a brighter future but is  more open to hear  and grant protection to those  whose lives are in peril because of their beliefs and political opinions.   Deep-rooted principles that are the conerstones of its immigration process, i.e., freedom of religion and expression.  This is the crux of seeking asylum and refugee status.  Related visa applications such as withholding of removal or protection under the U.S. Convention against Torture (CAT)] can be opted for, if the applicant is in the U.S.  These alternative options can be applied for together with asylum or after the lapse of the 1-year period from entry when the option to file asylum would have prescribed.  Although there are more requirements,  the grant of the same is mandatory once there is complete compliance .  But withholding of removal or protection under the U.S. Convention against Torture (CAT)] do not allow green card applications; only the permission to remain in the U.S. and work legally.  It is based on the United Nations Convention rules relating to the status of refugees, i.e., no refugee should be removed to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, eligion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.  We remember  Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Marie Curie, who sought refuge in the U.S., then  changed the world  due to  their accomplishments and contributions to science and psychology.

Closer to home, back in 1980 it would have been  easy to think that Ninoy Aquino could seek  asylum when he and his family were allowed to leave the Philippines, and come to the U.S. for medical treatment. After all he had  been incarcerated and sentenced to death on charges of murder, illegal possession of firearms and subversion under a  Martial Law regime.   Those charges arose because he was a  staunch critic of the Marcos family. But he did not, expressly stating in his last undelivered speech (he was assasinated at the Manila international airport Tarmac on 08/21/1983) that: “I could have opted to seek political asylum in America, but I feel it is my duty, as it is the duty of every Filipino, to suffer with his people especially in time of crisis.”  Ironically, when the Marcoses fled to Hawaii on the eve of the fall of his regime in 1986, they were flown to  and were granted asylum in the US.  They were a different class of asylum seekers,  like Saudi Arabia, Iraq  or Kuwait  is a different Muslim country.

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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan.  She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states.  Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at [email protected] or go to for any questions on this article.

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