Asylum and “credible fear”

There is a 1.6 million backlog in asylum applications facing the country’s immigration courts, some 75% of all cases pending in these courts.

Asylees are accepted into the U.S. due to a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. In recent years, the percentage of court decisions in favor of the applicant has varied betweemn 25% and 40%.

To qualify for asylum, an individual must demonstrate that their fear of persecution is both subjectively genuine and objectively reasonable. This means that they must have a credible fear of persecution, and that there must be a reasonable possibility that they would face harm if they were to return to their home country. The asylum provisions begin here (section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

Credible fear assessments are initially made by an asylum officer employed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an arm of the State Department.  An applicant can appeal an adverse decision to the immigration court (within the Dept of Justice). If a positive decision by the asylum officer, the case goes to an immigration judge for other questions before the judge grants asylum status.

To document the basis for credible fear, applicants typically present evidence such as:

Personal testimony: The applicant may provide a detailed account of their experiences in their home country, including any incidents of persecution, threats, or violence they have suffered or witnessed.

Country conditions reports: These reports provide information on the political, social, and economic situation in the applicant’s home country. They may include information on human rights abuses, persecution, and violence, and can help establish the credibility of the applicant’s claims.

Expert testimony: Experts in relevant fields, such as human rights or country conditions, may provide testimony to support the applicant’s claims.

Documentary evidence: This may include news articles, government reports, or other documents that support the applicant’s claims.

Medical evidence: Applicants may provide medical reports or evaluations to document any physical or mental health conditions resulting from past persecution or trauma.


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