Asylum eligibility in the U.S.

A cura di Silvia Saliola –

Immigration has become, under every aspect, a central topic in our everyday life. It constitutes a focusing point not only on a political level, but also on a legal one: it is extremely important to have knowledge of which are the juridical responses of the different hosting States to this massive phenomenon, as well as to comprehend which are the causes that push immigrants to risk their lives, hoping in a better future. With regard to the U.S., rules to determine asylum eligibility are quite strict. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person may qualify for asylum if he or she meets the international definition of refugee, who is defined as “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” (INA, par. 208). To establish asylum eligibility, an applicant must also ascertain that one of the protected grounds – race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group- was or will be at least “a central reason of persecution” (INA par. 208). The source of persecution, which has been defined by the Federal courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) as “the infliction of suffering or harm upon those who differ in a way that is regarded as offensive” (BIA- Matter of Acosta, 1985), must be the government, a quasi-official group, or persons or groups that the government is unwilling or unable to control. Coming to the example of a concrete case, a young Honduran woman, C.F., is right now seeking asylum in the U.S. on the basis of her membership in the particular social group of “women who are the surviving partner of a man who was murdered by a gang”. Her husband was killed by a local gang, Mara Salvatrucha, which is now searching for C.F. to complete its work. She is just one of the million victims of violence, whom is our duty, as future lawyers and jurists, to protect and help, in the name of justice.


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