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Who are Asylum Seekers?

Most of us have experienced leaving home. We've gone to college, relocated for work, or moved to care for family. But what about those for whom leaving home is a matter of life and death? On the news, we often hear the terms refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants, without any distinction between them. Under U.S. immigration law, these groups are defined and have different rights and protections.


Who are Refugees?

Refugees are people who have fled their own country because they re at risk of being persecuted. The United Nations defines a refugee s someone with a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. A particular social group is a group who shares a common characteristic that they either cannot change or should not be forced to change.

Refugees are vetted by the United Nations and the Department of Homeland Security before they arrive in the United States. They have been granted the right to live and work in the U.S. permanently before vey arrive. After living in the U.S. for one year as a refugee, they can become permanent residents.

Who are Asylum Seekers?

Unlike refugees, asylum seekers are not granted protection before arriving in the U.S. Once an asylum seeker arrives, either through a lawful admission, presenting themselves at a border crossing and asking for protection, or through other means, they must file their application for asylum in 1 year. They undergo background checks and make their case for protection, either before the Department of Homeland Security or an Immigration Judge. They also have to show a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country.

People granted asylum are called asylees and they are allowed to live and work in the United States. They are protected from being removed to their home countries. One year after being granted asylum, an asylee can become a permanent resident.

greece lesbos refugees AFP.jpg
mcn group of migrant farmworkers.webp

Who are Migrants?

There is no internationally recognized definition of a migrant, but they can be thought of as people staying outside of their country who are not asylum seekers or refugees. Migrants leave home for many reasons - work, education, family and natural disasters. Nevertheless, migrants are entitled to have their human rights protected and upheld.

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