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Differentiating asylees from refugees

When tumultuous circumstances in your home country cause you to fear for your safety and that of your family, one can understand why you would want to gain immediate entry into the U.S. (and to live lawfully in California without the fear of deportation).

Many might refer to you as a refugee (indeed, many of those who come to us here at Sadri Law, P.C. refer to themselves as such). That is because the terms “refugee” and “asylum: are often used interchangeably. The general assumption of the nature of a refugee case is correct in many situations, but not all.

“Refugees” vs. “asylees”

The law makes a distinction between refugees and those seeking asylum (referred to hereafter as “asylees”). Per the Department of Homeland Security, a refugee is one outside of their country of origin who fears returning due to the potential for persecution for any of the following reasons:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Participation in a particular social movement or group
  • Political ideals

An asylee shares the same fears. However, the distinction is that if you seek asylum, you are already in the U.S. (or present at a U.S. port of entry) and want lawful status due to the aforementioned reasons. You can be a refugee yet still not in the country in which you seek asylum.

The importance of the distinction

Why is the distinction between refugees and asylees important? The U.S. sets a cap on the number of refugees that the country can allow entry to in a given year. However, there is no limit on the number of people to whom the government grants asylum. Thus, your ability to legally remain in the U.S. to escape persecution in your home country may depend on this distinction.