As we all know, political, ethnic, and religious violence, unfortunately, ravages vast regions and populations all around the world. Recently, Foreign Policy magazine (FP) published an article that provides an overview of potential conflict zones in 2012. Included in FP’s assessment are Syria, Iran/Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Central Asia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya/Somalia, Venezuela, Tunisia, and Myanmar. Most of these conflict zones are relatively well-known because of the United States’s direct involvement in the area. We see news reports about many of the conflicts on a daily basis. However, some regions are a bit more under the radar. Conflicts in Africa, in particular, don’t receive much coverage in the US media or much attention in US foreign policy circles. The omission of Nigeria and Sudan/South Sudan from FP’s list are prime examples of this lack of coverage.
One might ask why I’m focusing on international conflict zones on our LawBlog. The reason why I am discussing these regions and this issue is because these are the regions from which people seeking asylum in the United States are most likely to arrive. In order for a person to seek asylum, there, sadly, must be conflict and violence. Therefore, the asylum lawyer must know the grounds for asylum and have some working knowledge of international conflicts to properly file a comprehensive asylum petition.
Under the laws that govern the USCIS and, therefore, immigration into the United States, a person may seek asylum if he or she has suffered persecution or fears that he or she will suffer persecution because of his or her:
4. Membership in a particular social group
5. Political opinion
The type of persecution listed undoubtedly occurs on a relatively large scale in most, if not all, of the conflict zones referenced in the FP article. The asylum lawyer doesn’t have to initially know the intricacies of the persecution in a particular country prior to assisting an asylum client, but the asylum lawyer should at least have an idea of potential conflict zones. Once the asylum lawyer has initially interviewed the asylum client, he or she can fully research the persecution occurring in the country. Then the asylum lawyer can begin to frame his or her argument arguing that one of the grounds is satisfied because of the conditions on the ground in a particular country. Some helpful websites to begin your research include:
I, personally, had the tremendous privilege to work on my first asylum case in 2010. Our client, in that case, is from Kyrgyzstan (a country mentioned in the Central Asia section of the FP article). She and her family are members of persecuted ethnic groups. When we first started the case, we didn’t know much about Kyrgyzstan outside of some general knowledge that there was some volatility in the country and that the US has bases there to support the Afghanistan/Pakistan conflict. Because of this general lack of knowledge we had to scour the internet, political journals, books, and immigration decisions to fully understand the conflict and its relationship to the legal aspects of her asylum case. Kyrgyzstan’s story is much more complex than we had anticipated, but we were able to create a clear picture of our client’s persecution in our hearing with the Asylum Officer assigned to our case.
As a result of our understanding of the conflict in Kyrgyzstan, my colleague and I, thankfully, secured asylum status for our client. I am happy to report that the rest of her family arrived in Denver last month and will join her here permanently. It was a beautiful reunion.
If you, a family member, a colleague, or a friend are seeking asylum in the United States, please contact us. We are experienced and ready to help.