In everyday conversations, many people in California may use the terms refugee and asylum seekers interchangeably. However, these two groups follow different immigration processes in America. Also, according to CNN, contrary to what many people may believe, the country with the highest number of asylum seekers in America is not Mexico, but China. However, Mexicans do receive the highest denial rate at 88% with Haiti following close behind at 86.1%
In order to qualify for asylum, people must meet the legal definition of a refugee. However, there is still a difference between the two. How so? Refugee status is granted to people who are still overseas, while asylum seekers are usually already in America or seeking entry at the border.
There are also two main routes for seeking asylum. Affirmative asylum occurs at a port of entry. Defensive asylum may allow an individual to stay in the country when already facing deportation or caught trying to enter the country illegally.
Regardless of the type of asylum status chosen, the process is lengthy and expensive. The paperwork is also extensive. CNN notes that the paperwork includes 14 pages of instructions and another dozen pages of questions. There is also a biometrics appointment, which is followed by an interview. At that point, an asylum officer makes the decision. Luckily, California is one of only a handful of states with half a dozen or more offices, which helps to make traveling to the appointment a little easier. Some states have only one, while some have none at all.
Forbes notes that in June 2018, the asylum process became even more difficult. This followed a case that was personally decided by the Attorney General at the time, Jeff Sessions. Sessions also delivered a speech urging immigration judges to make quicker decisions and to take a look at their disposition rates. As a result, many professionals in the immigration field are preparing to represent their clients in an increasingly hostile environment.