By: Nadia Khalid, Attorney at Powers Law Group
In the ever-changing world of U.S. Immigration Policy, the Powers Law Group has seen a dramatic change in the approach and enforcement of asylum law and asylum interviews. Asylum offices across the United States are backlogged and over-burdened by a high volume of asylum applications, lack of sufficient resources, and new policy directives issued at an unpredictable pace. As a result, as of January 2018, the Asylum Division changed its interview approach from first-in first-out to last-in first-out. This means that all asylum applications filed after January 2018 are receiving an interview date of about 5-6 weeks after receipt of application.
While this seems efficient in theory, the result has been a little chaotic:
- Interviews are being conducted at a more rapid pace, with some asylum offices double booking asylum interviews on the chance that the applicant is late, takes too long to go through security, or is a no-show;
- The officer interviewing you is not always prepared;
- The officer does not always have your full submission; or, even if they have it, they have not always reviewed it;
- Some officers do not want or have time to read secondary submissions, such as supplementary evidence, making the applicant’s initial application and initial submission the most important; and
- Asylum officers are not always familiar with your country conditions.
While it is a positive to receive an asylum interview so quickly, this positive is accompanied by a high burden of preparation and proof on the part of the applicant. Given this overwhelming backlog, asylum officers have begun flagging applicant testimony in two major ways:
- Inconsistencies: the first easiest way for officers to streamline their interviews is to look for inconsistencies in your story and the proof you provided. This means that even if the officer has not reviewed a document that you provided which corroborates your story, the applicant needs to be quick in providing a copy of that record during the interview so that the officer can look over it at the same time.
- Any Relation to Violence: the second easiest way to make a decision is to ask about any violent or criminal history. Violence can extend, by inference, to mandatory military training, so it is important to be prepared to answer the purpose of the military training and the applicant’s role in it.
The short of these new asylum trends is this: have an attorney. More than ever, it is important to have a lawyer prepare your asylum application, submit your asylum application, and most importantly be present during the interview. The help of legal counsel affords applicant’s extra security in ensuring that all of what they provided is flagged for the officer during the interview, that the officer provides fair questioning to the applicant, and to explain intricate country conditions, among other reasons.
At the Powers Law Group, our attorneys have attended asylum interviews in Houston (TX), Boston (MA), Newark (NJ), Arlington (VA), and New Orleans (LA). Our firm has offices in Houston, TX and Newark, NJ.
Given the unpredictable pace of new policy directives, it is important to find strong legal support to help you navigate this important process and help tell your story. Together, we can be prepared for the changing face of asylum.