By Richard Hanus, Esq.

Published July 3, 2021

Are you a refugee? Are you trying to bring a loved one to the U.S. who is a refugee and in order to protect them?

Refugee law can seem complicated and confusing to anyone who isn’t well-versed in refugee rights and protections. Trying to navigate this area of law and its related processes without significant expertise and experience will undoubtedly be challenging.

We’re here to provide an overview of refugee laws to provide you with basic insight and to sort out fact from fiction.  Keep reading to learn more.

Who Is a Refugee?

Generally speaking, a refugee is anyone leaving their country of origin out of fear (or experience) of persecution. This fear can stem from persecution faced on account of the refugee’s race, religion, nationality, political belief or social group.  Because of this persecution, they are also unwilling or unable to return to their country of origin.

Those who have committed serious crimes (against the state, against humanity, or against the general principles of the United Nations) may not be eligible for refugee status.

Claiming Asylum

In the United States, applicants seeking refugee protection do so by claiming asylum, a legal process that can be extraordinarily challenging. You need to claim asylum within the first year of arriving in the United States, though there are exceptions, and the asylum option is available both as a proactive measure as well as a defense in court if you are placed in removal proceedings.

A foreign national is granted asylum when they present enough evidence to allow a U.S. government decisionmaker to conclude they meet the legal definition of “refugee” – see above.  From there, a grant of asylum eventually allows you to apply for permanent residence (and eventually, citizenship). It protects you against deportation or removal from the U.S.

With that in mind, you need to be diligent. Immigration is complicated, and the country doesn’t want to grant asylum if it doesn’t have to. A refugee lawyer can help.

What Is Non-Refoulement?

As a refugee, you have the right to non-refoulement.

Non-refoulement means that your destination country (in this case, the United States) isn’t able to return you to the same country that you’re fleeing or any other country in which you’ll experience the same kind of persecution. It’s unethical and illegal to put you back into harm’s way.

There are exceptions to this and some countries attempt to skirt the laws. Again, this is a time in which an immigration or refugee lawyer can help you protect your rights as a refugee/asylum applicant.

Family Protection

As a refugee, you have the right to bring immediate relatives who are dependent upon you to the safety of your destination country. If you have dependents, its very possible they’re covered by your protection.

While it varies country by country, in the United States, dependents include your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21. Other relatives will need to obtain their independent avenues of protection.

Standard Refugee Rights

As a refugee, you have the same rights as other immigrants. You are free to find employment, seek out an education, and have the right to justice.

While some rights won’t be the same as those of U.S. citizens, you will be treated with dignity, respect and not as a second-class citizen.

Refugee Law: You Have Rights

Refugee law is (sometimes purposefully) complicated. If you or a loved one is fleeing persecution and seeking the safety of a receiving country, you have the right to asylum.

Don’t let the complicated legal system keep you in harm’s way.

Are you in need of an experienced refugee lawyer? We want to help you. Contact us so we can discuss your situation, help assess your eligibility and if you meet eligibility requirements, set you up for a successful process.

PUBLISHED July 3, 2021– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2021, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois