While some people immigrate to Florida for jobs or to join a spouse, others are fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries. These conditions may include war, political persecution or social violence. Asylum-seekers often have to navigate a complex maze of laws and regulations.
Unfortunately, many of those who seek refuge are not proficient in English and may not fully understand the country’s laws. As a result, individuals who might otherwise qualify for asylum are at risk of deportation because they are unable to establish their case. NPR recently profiled a mother and son who are in the U.S. seeking asylum because of violent gang activity in El Salvador.
In this case, neither parent nor child spoke English well and they could not afford an attorney. On the day of an asylum hearing, the mother went to the wrong courthouse, resulting in a deportation order. She is now in a precarious situation as she attempts to remain in the United States. Unlike defendants in criminal cases, refugees are not entitled to free legal representation. If they are unable to raise the funds needed to hire a lawyer, they are significantly less likely to be granted asylum.
People who are seeking asylum for themselves can benefit from having legal counsel. This can be particularly important for those who are not fluent in English. An experienced immigration attorney may be able to review the client’s case and make recommendations regarding strategies for being allowed to remain in the United States during the pendency of the request for asylum.