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Migrant surge from Central America tests judges

Immigration judges are dealing with an increase in asylum seekers coming from Central America, some of whom could end up in South Carolina. Granting asylum is not an easy decision, but there are laws governing who is eligible. Unlike with criminal trials for United States citizens, defendants in immigration proceedings are presumed guilty until they can prove that they are eligible for asylum, according to a professor of refugee history and immigration.

Some of the requirements for qualifying to receive asylum involve persecution and danger, but asylum seekers must also not have been convicted of a major crime. They must show that they were singled out and persecuted and that they were unable to escape persecution by going to a different part of their home country. There must be a threat of imminent danger without protection from their own government. Even if these conditions are met, asylum isn't guaranteed. Anyone who poses a threat to U.S. national security will not be granted asylum.

Asylum seekers must also arrange for their own legal representation, something that advocacy groups can sometimes help with but also is not guaranteed. Even a hearing is not promised. However, the Immigration Act of 1990 created what is known as Temporary Protective Status. Foreign nationals who have made it to the U.S. and can show they cannot safely go back to their country of origin might be allowed to stay temporarily.

Because so many people are seeking immigration hearings and asylums, successfully getting in front of a judge in a timely manner could be difficult for foreign nationals. An attorney might assist in getting a hearing scheduled and then in making a compelling argument for why a client deserves asylum or temporary protective status.

Source: NPR, "Young Migrants May Request Asylum, But It's Hard To Get", August 14, 2014

Source: NPR, "Young Migrants May Request Asylum, But It's Hard To Get", August 14, 2014

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