Asylum Seekers

If you have a loved one who is currently in ICE detention, they can contact UNHCR’s Detention Hotline for free by dialing 566# on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 2-5pm EST.

If you are seeking protection in the United States, you have certain rights and duties, including the right to claim asylum and the duty to respect the laws and regulations of the United States.

For information concerning work, family, and residency, please see United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Common questions regarding rights and duties of defensive asylum seekers may include:

*Information adapted from the American Immigration Lawyers Association

Can I get a lawyer?

You have the right to hire a lawyer, but the government will not pay for or provide you with a lawyer. Navigating U.S. immigration processes can be quite difficult so, if possible, we strongly recommend working with a qualified immigration attorney or agency authorized to represent asylum-seekers. 

Many organizations offer low cost or “pro bono” legal services for individuals and families who can not afford to pay for private attorneys. Resources for finding legal representation can be found below:

  1. Immigration Advocates Network | National Immigration Legal Services Directory  
  2. EOIR | List of Pro Bono Legal Service Providers by Immigration Court 
  3. USA Hello | FindHello 
  4. American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) | Private immigration lawyers 

What if I cannot get a lawyer?

Even if you do not have a lawyer, you must go to your immigration court appointment or you could be ordered deported without the chance to present your case. The immigration judge is required to give you information about how to find free or low cost legal help. If you are having trouble finding help, you can ask for more time.

You can still fight your case even if you do not have a lawyer. The immigration judge will help you understand your rights and must help you if you are presenting your case on your own.

What if I don’t speak English?

If you cannot speak English, the court will provide a free interpreter.

What if I need more time?

If you need more time to prepare or if at any time you decide that you want a lawyer to help you, ask the immigration judge for more time.

How do I get information about my Immigration court date?

You can use EOIR’s Automatic Case Information website to learn more about your or a loved one’s immigration court status, including future court hearings, pending applications, and past decisions in the immigration case. To obtain the relevant case information, it is necessary to enter the individual’s A-number. You can also dial the immigration court hotline at 1-800-898-7180 to obtain the same case status information in English and Spanish.  

It is critical that you attend all of your court dates. Failure to appear in court can result in an in abstentia removal order.

What if I move?

You must make sure the immigration court has your correct address at all times.  It is extremely important that the immigration court has your correct address so that you will receive any hearing notices or documents they file in your case. You can update your address by filing a form EOIR-33/IC.

What if I am afraid to go back?

If you were harmed in your home country or are afraid to be sent back, you have the right to ask the immigration judge for protection. Not everyone will qualify, but if you truly fear returning to your country, there is no penalty for applying. You cannot be deported until your case has been fully heard.

I was told I do not qualify for asylum?

If you were told by a lawyer or anyone else that you do not qualify for protection, consider getting a second opinion. Immigration laws are complicated: there have been many recent changes, and sometimes people make mistakes.

Can I appeal?

Yes. If the immigration judge makes a decision in your case that you do not agree with, you have the right to appeal (challenge at a higher court) the judge’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”). If you file an appeal, you cannot be deported while your case is being reviewed.

My loved one or I need social service support. What can I do?

The websites and resources below may assist you in finding for legal and social services near you:

  1. USA Hello | FindHello 
  3. RAICES Canopy Hotline | 800-437-3071 (call or text) 
  4. Church World Service Call Center| 800-375-1433 or [email protected]  

Often local organizations in your community will be able to offer the most direct and immediate assistance, or be aware of what other services exist. We recommend contacting organizations near you to ask about what services they may be able to help you with.