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Types of Asylum Cases

The Advocates works with clients at all stages of the asylum process. The majority of our cases fall into two main categories, Affirmative and Removal, although we also handle cases for clients with appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals & the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Affirmative Cases are the beginning of the asylum process. These are clients who have not applied for asylum or had any contact with the immigrations service yet. Representing a client in an affirmative case involves working with the client to develop his or her story and framing that story in the asylum application (form I-589) and affidavit, assembling supporting documents provided by the client as well as independent human rights reports and news articles to support the claim for asylum. The application must be submitted to the immigration service within one year of entry (although certain exceptions may be available). The client will be scheduled for an interview with an asylum officer, which takes place at the immigration offices in Bloomington, MN. Your work on the case includes preparing the client for this interview, updating and supplementing the file if needed, and attending the interview. Once the client receives a decision, your commitment to the case is completed, although many attorneys choose to continue working on the case if it is referred to the Court.

Affirmative cases are generally non-adversarial, and are more similar to transactional work. An affirmative case may take six months to one year to complete (that is, to receive a decision). This often the first type of case a volunteer may handle.

Removal Cases involve representing the client in front of the Immigration Court. These cases may involve clients who applied affirmatively and were not granted, and therefore their asylum claim is referred to the Court for a de novo adjudication or may involve clients who were detained by immigration and are filing their first asylum application in court. Representing a client in a removal case will involve attending both a master calendar hearing (the preliminary, scheduling hearing) as well as the individual hearing where testimony is heard and evidence examined. There is cross examination by counsel for the Department of Homeland Security and an Immigration Judge presiding who ultimately decides whether or not the client will receive asylum. Attorneys handling removal cases must work with the client to prepare additional evidence, witnesses, and testimony for submission in advance of the hearing.

Removal cases are an excellent experience for attorneys with an interest or practice in litigation. The Advocates has ongoing needs for attorneys to handle removal cases, as the ability of clients to represent themselves in a court setting is more limited than before the administrative agency. A removal case may take anywhere from six months to two years, depending in large part on the court calendar and the length of time before an individual hearing is scheduled.