In the recent public debate regarding immigration reform, some groups have called for a change to our current method of granting asylum to those who fear returning to their country of origin due to “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The asylum process is often described as “complex” and “complicated,” and as being full of pitfalls for asylum seekers and those trying to assist them. In light of the intricate nature of the process, and the requests we receive for research assistance in the area, we felt that this topic deserved its own Beginner’s Guide.
One of the best places to begin research in an unfamiliar area of law is with a treatise or handbook. This list includes treatises and handbooks that should be of use to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.
- Law of Asylum in the United States, by Deborah E. Anker (2011)
- Asylum Primer: A Practical Guide to U.S. Asylum Law and Procedure, by Regina Germain (2010)
- Kurzban’s Immigration Law Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Outline and Reference Tool, by Ira Kurzban (1990-present)
- Affirmative Asylum Procedures Manual (2011 edition), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate Asylum Division (online version available at USCIS’s website)
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Adjudicator’s Field Manual, by USCIS (online redacted version available at USCIS’s website)
- How to Get a Green Card, by Ilona Bray (2012).
Statutes, Regulations, and Proposed Laws
As we noted in our prior Beginner’s Guide on immigration law, many of the statutes and regulations regarding immigration law, including asylum, can be found in Title 8 of the United States Code and of the Code of Federal Regulations, respectively. To find copies of these statutes and regulations online, we suggest that you use the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) website.
Considering recent discussion regarding possible changes to the law in the future, however, researchers may want to know how to access information about proposed laws. To track bills and resolutions introduced in Congress, use Congress.gov, our new, user-friendly legislative information system. If you are more interested in proposed and new regulations, copies of the Federal Register can be found on FDsys, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a listing of immigration-specific Federal Register Announcements on its website.
Case Law and Administrative Guidance
When dealing with asylum law, particularly regarding a case that may be contested by the government, finding administrative guidance promulgated by USCIS and case law produced by judicial bodies such as the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is essential. Information about these decisions can be found in the following resources:
- Interpreter Releases (1935-present)
- Bender’s Immigration Case Reporter (1985-present)
- Asylum Case Law Sourcebook: Master Index and Case Abstracts for U.S. Court Decisions (1994-present)
- Administrative Decisions Under Immigration & Nationality Laws (1940-2000)
- USCIS Administrative Appeals Office Decisions
- Attorney General and BIA Precedent Decisions
- USCIS Policy and Procedure Memos related to Asylum
Luckily, many asylum-related resources are also freely available online, including the forms necessary for filing an asylum claim with USCIS. We have broken these sites down into three general topics: (1) country research, which is absolutely crucial when trying to determine or prove that there is a demonstrated persecution of certain groups of people in a country; (2) free or low-cost providers of legal services, as asylum cases can often be long and difficult to prove; and (3) general information about asylum law, including handbooks, manuals, and up-to-the-minute news sources.
- Human Rights Reports, U.S. Department of State
- Refworld Country Information Collection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- World Report 2013 – Country Chapters, Human Rights Watch
- Country Studies, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress (offers more of a historical view than current view)
- Learn About Human Rights, Amnesty International
Free or Low-Cost Legal Services
- National Immigration Legal Services Directory, by the Immigration Advocates Network
- Free Legal Services Providers, by the U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review
General Information About Asylum Law
- Obtaining Asylum in the United States, by USCIS
- Pro Bono Representation Manual: An Overview of Asylum Law and Procedure, by The Advocates for Human Rights (2010)
- Basic Procedural Manual for Asylum Representation Affirmatively and in Removal Proceedings, by the National Immigrant Justice Center (2009)
- Asylum Law, Asylum Seekers and Refugees: A Primer and The Asylum Process, by TRAC Immigration Project
- For Pro Se Litigants, by the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (2007)
- CALS Asylum Case Research Guide, by the Center for Applied Legal Studies, Georgetown University Law Center
- Avoiding Immigration Related Scams, by USCIS
- The Asylumist Blog
- Asylumlaw.org (contains helpful information, but appears to have stopped updating in 2009)
Do you have a favorite resource related to asylum law? Please let us know in the comments section. If you have any questions, please contact the Law Library of Congress.