Applying for Defensive Asylum

The Asylum process (both affirmative and defensive) is conducted by the United States government, not UNHCR. The following information can be accessed at the Florence Project.

The Defensive Asylum process

Part 1: Master Calendar Hearing

  • At the beginning of your case, in one of your first hearings also known as a Master Calendar Hearing, the judge will ask you if each of the charges against you is true. Listen carefully to the questions and do not agree to facts that are not exactly true.
  • After that, the judge should ask you some questions to see if you qualify for a way to stay in the United States. The judge should also ask you if you are afraid to go back to your country. If you want to apply for asylum, withholding of removal, or CAT protection, explain this to the judge.

Part 2: Individual or Merits Hearing

  • This is the final hearing in your case when the judge listens to your story and asks you and your witnesses, if any, questions about your application and anything else you turn in for the judge to look at.
  • At your final hearing, you get to tell your story and the judge decides your case. At the hearing, the Immigration Judge, an interpreter (if you are not fluent in English), the lawyer representing DHS (called the “trial attorney”), and you will all be present. If you have witnesses, they have to be there, too. You should be aware that DHS may have witnesses against you, but that occurs very rarely.
  • At the end of the asylum/withholding of removal hearing, the judge usually decides whether you will be granted asylum/withholding or not. Sometimes, though, a judge will take some time to think about or write down his or her decision, and you will have to wait a while longer.

Part 3: Appeals

  • Both you and DHS have the right to keep fighting the case by appealing the decision to a higher court called the Board of Immigration Appeals (or BIA).
  • As soon as the judge tells you the decision (unless you get it later, in writing), he or she will ask both you and the trial attorney whether you want to “reserve appeal,” that is, whether you want to hold on to your right to appeal. You can also “waive appeal,” which means to give up your right to appeal.
  • If you lose and you “reserve appeal,” the Board of Immigration Appeals must receive your papers by the 30th day or the judges there will not read them, and you will lose your right to appeal.
  • For information about how to file an appeal, see this guide made by the Florence Project

For more resources regarding Defensive Asylum, please see here.