© Attorney Farhad Sethna, 2020
It is very important that a person who is claiming asylum on arriving at the U.S. border be prepared to answer the types of questions that the asylum officer is going to ask. I have provided some guidance about the type of questions that are asked and the type of preparation that the asylum seeker should do before the asylum office or the Customs and Border Protection interview:
As background, anyone who is seeking asylum in the United States must prove to the asylum office that they have a “credible” or “reasonable” fear of future persecution in their home country, and that they have suffered past persecution in their home country. Such persecution must be because of the applicant’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Economic hardship or general criminal violence is no a basis for asylum.
Additionally, the applicant must also show that he or she cannot relocate safely to another part of his home country, because he would be persecuted there as well.
As I tell all my clients: tell the truth. Stick to the facts, do not make up any lies or tell any false stories.
Typically, the asylum officer will ask questions such as:
- Your full name and biographical details – age, birthdate etc.
- Your parents’ names, names address and phone number(s) of relatives or “family friends” in the USA who you can stay with..
- How you came to the USA-which countries did you travel through?
- IMPORTANT: At this point it is important to tell the asylum officer if you were not given a chance to apply for asylum in any of the countries that you traveled through, especially Mexico, Guatemala, or Honduras. This is very important, because the US government claims that these countries should be granting asylum seekers the right to apply for asylum before they come to the USA.
- Did you suffer harm in your home country?
- Be very specific- why were you persecuted? (see below for more information)
- Were you physically attacked?
- Were you injured?
- Where on your body were you injured?
- Who hurt you?
- Were any weapons used?
- What date or dates did this happen – what day of the week was this?
- Did you go to the hospital or the doctor?
- What kind of treatment did you receive?
- Can you get documents proving your injuries and the possible cause of those injuries?
- What are the names of the people who attacked you?
- What did they say to you when they attacked you?
- Any other follow-up threats or attacks against you?
- Did the attackers or other people come looking for you after the attack?
- Were any other people hurt or were your family members hurt or threatened? Again, same points to consider as above.
- Did you go to the police?
- What did the police do or say?
- Did they take a statement?
- Did they try to arrest the people who hurt you?
- What happened?
- Can you go back safely to your home country?
- Why not?
- Can you go to some other place in your home country where you will be safe?
- Do not simply say “they will find me”. Explain how “they” will find you, how things work in your home country.
- Why were you persecuted?
- Was it your race?
- Your religion?
- Your political opinion?
- Was it your membership in a particular social group?
- Was it your nationality (country that you are from or area that you are from)?
- It is very important to list all the reasons you think you were persecuted. Do not complain later that you did not have a chance to give your full story to the asylum officer.
- Are you afraid that you will be tortured if you are return to your home country?
- Who will torture you?
- How will you be tortured?
- What will they do to you?
- General Advice:
Finally-but perhaps just as important-if you cannot understand the interpreter, or if the telephone line is not clear, or if your connection to the interpreter or the asylum officer is breaking up and you cannot hear them completely or correctly, let the asylum officer know immediately. Do not try to be nice and accommodating. You get only one chance. If you mess up this chance, you cannot complain later that you did not hear the officer, or you could not understand the interpreter. Make those claims at the time of the asylum interview. Insist on a better interpreter if the interpreter does not appear to be translating correctly.
This is a very critical time for you. Ask for extra time if you need to prepare. Ask for extra time if you need to see an attorney or get advice from someone before you give the interview. As I said, this is not a time to be nice. This is a time to protect yourself and protect your right to apply for asylum in the United States.
© Farhad Sethna, Attorney, 2020
Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 25 years. He was awarded his JD in 1990 and his MBA in 1991, both from the University of Akron. Since 1996, he has also been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio, where he wrote and used his own immigration textbook. Attorney Sethna is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. He has won awards for excellence in teaching and for pro-bono service. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and New Philadelphia, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases before federal agencies and the immigration courts nationwide. A private pilot, it is Farhad’s goal to fly to each of Ohio’s 88 county airports. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.