U.S. Immigration Policy on Asylum Seekers [Updated March 30, 2005]   [open pdf - 123KB]

"The United States has long held to the principle that it will not return a foreign national to a country where his life or freedom would be threatened. This principle is embodied in several provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), most notably in provisions defining refugees and asylees. Aliens seeking asylum must demonstrate a well-founded fear that if returned home, they will be persecuted based upon one of five characteristics: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Aliens present in the United States may apply for asylum with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after arrival into the country, or they may seek asylum before a Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) immigration judge during removal proceedings. Aliens arriving at a U.S. port who lack proper immigration documents or who engage in fraud or misrepresentation are placed in expedited removal; however, if they express a fear of persecution, they receive a 'credible fear' hearing with an USCIS asylum officer and-if found credible-are referred to an EOIR immigration judge for a hearing. In FY2003, there were 42,114 claims for asylum filed with USCIS, and by the close of the fiscal year, there were 262,102 asylum cases pending at USCIS. The USCIS asylum officers approved 11,434 cases in FY2003, and the percentage of cases approved was 29% of cases decided."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL32621
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