The U.S. Has Numerous Immigration Options for Those Seeking Asylum
If you are seeking humanitarian protection within the United States, Iyer Immigration Law can help. The U.S. immigration system contains a number of permanent and temporary protections for victims of persecution; torture; childhood abuse, abandonment, neglect, or exploitation; trafficking; crimes; domestic abuse; or other humanitarian reasons. These vital protections may be the only form of immigration relief available in your case, so it is important for you to carefully prepare your case with legal counsel. Our legal team at Iyer Immigration Law can help you obtain the humanitarian immigration relief you deserve.
Humanitarian Immigration Relief
The United States offers a multitude of programs to those seeking immigration assistance for humanitarian needs. For example, the U.S. State Department notes that in 2019 almost 50,000 people were granted asylum in the United States to protect them from persecution in their countries of origin.
Immigration relief for individuals fleeing persecution, crime, or for other humanitarian reasons can usually be sought through the following programs:
- Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and Protection under the Convention Against Torture
- Temporary Protected Status
- Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
- Deferred Action
- T Visa
- U Visa
- Cancellation of Removal
- Prosecutorial Discretion
Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and CAT Protection
The U.S. offers immigration protections to tens of thousands of individuals each year who are being persecuted or threatened in their home country through similar forms of relief: asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). To apply for all three forms of relief, you must file Form I-589..
To be eligible for asylum, the applicant must establish a reasonable likelihood of persecution on account of a protected reason, including:
- Political opinion
- Particular social groups
- Domestic violence
- Gang violence
- Female genital mutilation
- Forced abortion or involuntary sterilization
Temporary Protected Status
Congress created Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) in 1990 as a general form of humanitarian immigration relief for countries suffering from a humanitarian crisis, such as an armed conflict or natural disaster. To be eligible, the applicant must be a national of a designated country and further comply with certain residence and registration requirements. TPS is a temporary form of relief but practically may be extended for many years.
Currently, the countries designated for TPS include:
- Burma (Myanmar)
- El Salvador
- South Sudan
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Congress has also created certain categories of special immigrants who are eligible for Green Cards, including Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJS”). Generally, SIJS is meant for unmarried children under 21 who have been abused, neglected, abandoned, or exploited by at least one biological parent. To apply, the child needs to first obtain a state juvenile court order with certain predicate findings, after which she must then self-petition for SIJS before USCIS. Once the self-petition is approved, the child may then apply for adjustment of status to a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”), otherwise known as a Green Card. Some children may be able to apply for adjustment of status at the same time as their self-petition for SIJS.
The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) allows certain victims of domestic violence, including women, men, and children, to apply for a Green Card and obtain permanent residency. Generally, eligibility requires that the applicant has been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by a close family member who is a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder. Generally, there are two ways to apply for VAWA relief: affirmatively by filing Form I-360 with USCIS and defensively by requesting special rule cancellation of removal in immigration court.
To file an affirmative VAWA application on Form I-360, the applicant must generally show that she has been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. In addition, the applicant must show that she is a person of good moral character and will suffer extreme hardship if deported. To file a defensive VAWA application for special rule cancellation of removal, the same requirements generally apply, in addition to showing three years of continuous physical presence.
The T Visa program was designed to help human trafficking victims escape and begin a stable life in the United States. It allows victims of sex or labor trafficking to be granted temporary residency in the United States for as long as four years if they have cooperated with law enforcement personnel in either catching or prosecuting human traffickers or meet one of the other exceptions. The applicant must also establish that she would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal. Some time later, the T Visa holder may apply for a Green Card.
Additionally, family members of eligible T Visa applicants are also eligible for T Visas and subsequently Green Cards. If the principal applicant is under 21, eligible family members include her spouse, children, unmarried siblings under 18, and parents. If the principal applicant is over the age of 21, eligible family members include her spouse and children. And if the principal applicant faces a danger of retaliation due to cooperating with law enforcement, eligible family members include parents, unmarried siblings under 18, and children of derivative beneficiaries.
The U Visa program allows victims of violent crime who have helped law enforcement personnel in the investigation or prosecution of certain criminal activity to obtain U Visas and eventually Green Cards. The purpose of the program is not only to incentivize individuals to help law enforcement, but also to allow government officials to help victims more effectively. In addition to the other requirements, the applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime and must generally be admissible or eligible for a waiver. Finally, the family members of eligible U Visa applicants may also be eligible for U Visas. Eligible family members may include the principal applicant’s spouse, child, parent, or siblings.
Qualifying criminal activity includes:
- Felony assault
- Domestic violence
- False imprisonment
- Female genital mutilation
- Fraud in foreign labor contracting
- Peonage or involuntary servitude
- Kidnapping or abduction
- Obstruction of justice or witness tampering
- Sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, exploitation, or rape
Cancellation of Removal
Cancellation of removal is a defensive form of relief in immigration court that permits certain noncitizens to obtain Green Cards. There are three forms of cancellation of removal, each of which has different eligibility requirements.
First, there is a generous form cancellation of removal limited to certain permanent residents. To be eligible, the applicant generally must have been a permanent resident for five years, have resided continuously in the United States for seven years, and not have been convicted of an aggravated felony.
Second, there is a strict form of cancellation of removal available to far more people. To be eligible, the applicant must have been physically present in the United States for ten years, have been a person of good moral character, not have certain criminal convictions, and establish that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a spouse, parent, or child who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Finally, there is a generous form of cancellation of removal available to certain victims of domestic violence. To be eligible, the applicant generally must show that she has been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. In addition, the applicant must show that she is a person of good moral character and will suffer extreme hardship if deported. Finally, the applicant must show three years of continuous physical presence.
Deferred Action and DACA
Deferred Action is an act of administrative convenience to the government which gives some cases lower priority. Deferred action simply recognizes that DHS has limited enforcement resources and that every attempt should be made administratively to utilize these resources in a way that achieves the greatest impact under the immigration laws. The government has wide authority to grant deferred action and there are no formal program requirements. Recipients of deferred action will be authorized to remain in the United States temporarily and work lawfully, and may even be able to travel abroad and reenter if they first qualify for and obtain advance parole.
DACA is a specific form of deferred action that clearly delineates eligibility to a class of people. That said, there is substantial litigation around the DACA program and it is unclear if it will survive in the long-term or how it will evolve. That said, the original eligibility requirements for DACA are generally:
- Arrival under age 16
- Physical presence on June 15, 2012
- Under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012
- No lawful status on June 15, 2012
- Continuous residence since June 15, 2007
- U.S. school or military service
- No criminal, national security, or public safety bars
More generally, the U.S. government often has discretion to award relief in the exercise of discretion. For example, the government may agree to stipulate to certain relief in immigration court proceedings. Alternatively, the government may award a stay of removal or deferred action—forms of relief that temporarily delays the execution of a removal order—if you have compelling humanitarian or medical needs. Other forms of prosecutorial discretion may also be available depending on your precise circumstances.
Talk To a Lawyer Immediately About Receiving Relief
If you or your family are seeking humanitarian relief in the United States, contact Iyer Immigration Law for assistance from our legal team. Based in Houston and proudly serving clients in in Houston, Pasadena, Sugar Land, Conroe, Baytown, Katy, Clear Lake, Pearland, League City, Richmond, Spring, Humble, Kingwood, Stafford, Cypress, Fulshear, Missouri City, and The Woodlands. We also take immigration cases nationwide. We will guide you through the process of getting the help you and your family need.