Religious Persecution and Immigration Laws
What Is “Religious Persecution” According to Immigration Laws?
Many people are aware of immigration terms like political asylum and political refugee. However, some people might not know that you can also obtain asylum or refugee status based on religious persecution.
The concept behind religious asylum is very similar to that of political asylum. Basically, a foreign national can apply for various protections in the U.S. if they have experienced religious persecution in their home country. “Religious persecution” can include:
- Victimization due to religiously-motivated violence (resulting in bodily harm or suffering)
- Unjust imprisonment for religious beliefs
- Human rights violations
- Inhumane treatment such as degradation, slaver, or torture based on religious belief
Religious refugees may apply for entrance into the U.S. to receive protection from such actions. They may also sometimes apply for certain benefits such as financial assistance and relocation counseling.
Who May Be Considered for Immigration Based on Religious Persecution?
The most important requirement is that the person needs to have a “well-founded fear” of persecution based on their religious beliefs. This means that the persecution cannot be invented or imagined, and also that a reasonable person would have similar fears if placed in the same situation.
In addition, the person does not actually have to belong to the religion for which they are being persecuted. For example, suppose that they were mistakenly believed to have belonged to a certain religion, and were then persecuted due to their identification with the group. If persecution was real and placed them in actual harm, they might be considered for refugee status even if they didn’t actually hold those religious beliefs.
Under serious conditions in a country, another alternative is “Temporary Protected Status”, which generally involves turbulent conditions in the person’s home country.
What Else Should I Consider Regarding Religious Persecution Under Immigration Laws?
On the other hand, there have been several cases in the past involving fraudulent applications for religious refugee and asylum. In such cases, the applicants did not actually experience persecution, and were simply “coached” by other persons into reciting facts or statements for immigration authorities. This is an example of fraud, and can lead to various consequences including removal/deportation, and denial of the application.
Also, it’s important to recognize the distinction between asylum and refugee status. Asylum is granted to persons who are already within the U.S. borders (and may sometimes be in the country illegally). In contrast, refugee status is granted to persons who have not yet entered the U.S. and are still in the process of fleeing the persecution.
In general, priority is given to refugee applications as opposed to asylum applications, especially when it comes to yearly immigration quotas.
Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for Help With Religious Persecution Issues?
Religious persecution can present some serious challenges for a person and their family. If you or a loved one needs assistance with religious immigration and immigration issues, you should contact an immigration lawyer immediately. Your attorney can assist you in an application for refugee status. Also, if you need to make an appearance before an immigration judge or panel, your attorney can provide representation and legal guidance.
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Last Modified: 10-24-2012 02:35 PM PDT
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