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Can Immigrants Affected by Climate Change Claim Asylum?

 Posted on December 07, 2023 in Immigration

Orlando Immigration Attorneys

In recent years, the issue of climate change has become a pressing concern worldwide. Rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other environmental factors have forced many people to leave their homes in search of safety and security. This raises an important question: can immigrants affected by climate change claim asylum and receive protection against deportation from the United States? An experienced attorney can provide guidance on this issue, and they can represent immigrants in legal proceedings related to asylum.

What Is Asylum?

Asylum is a form of protection that may be granted to immigrants who have experienced persecution in their home countries or have a credible fear that they will suffer persecution based on their religion, nationality, race, political opinions, or membership in certain groups. If an asylum request is granted, a person will be allowed to remain in the United States, and they may receive authorization to work in the U.S. One year after being granted asylum, a person may apply for a Green Card granting them permanent residence in the United States and placing them on the path to citizenship.

The Requirements for Asylum

Eligibility for asylum in the United States under current immigration laws will depend on several factors. An immigrant will need to meet certain criteria when applying for asylum, including:

  • The person must be physically present within the United States.

  • The person must file an application within one year of arriving in the United States (with limited exceptions).

  • The person must demonstrate that they are likely to face persecution or other forms of harm based on one of the protected characteristics detailed above.

While there are no specific provisions within U.S. immigration law that directly address claims related solely to climate change, more and more migrants who are displaced due to this issue may seek asylum based on the ways they have been affected by natural disasters or extreme weather. For example, immigrants from Honduras have sought asylum because hurricanes destroyed their homes and devastated their crops, and they were forced to flee due to increased levels of violence by cartels. Even though asylum laws may not specifically address this type of displacement, these immigrants may be able to receive protections due to the risks of harm they would face if they were forced to return to their home countries.

The Process of Applying for Asylum

To apply for asylum in the United States:

  1. An immigrant must first arrive in the United States, either by crossing a border or by being admitted to the country on a valid visa.

  2. Within one year of arrival, the immigrant must file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  3. The applicant will then be scheduled for an interview with an asylum officer from USCIS.

  4. During the interview, the applicant can present evidence and explain why they are seeking asylum. They will typically be required to demonstrate that they have a credible fear of persecution or harm if they return to their country of origin.

  5. If approved, the applicant will be granted asylum status and may apply for certain benefits such as work authorization and, eventually, permanent residency.

Other Options for Immigrants Affected by Climate Change

While climate change alone may not necessarily meet the criteria for asylum under current immigration laws, there are other options that may be available for people who have been displaced due to extreme weather, natural disasters, or other related factors:

  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS): This immigration benefit allows people from designated countries facing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary conditions to remain in the United States temporarily. It provides protection against deportation and allows immigrants to obtain work permits during their stay.

  • Humanitarian parole: This form of relief may be granted on a case-by-case basis when there is a compelling emergency or an urgent humanitarian reason. While it does not provide long-term legal status like asylum or refugee status would, it can allow immigrants who have been affected by climate change-related emergencies to enter or remain in the United States temporarily.

Contact Our Orange County Asylum Lawyers

If you are an immigrant who has been affected by climate change, the experienced Orlando immigration attorneys at Vasquez Law Firm, PLLC can help you explore your legal options. We will work with you to apply for asylum or determine what other forms of relief may be available, and we will help you take steps to ensure that you and your family can live safely in the United States. Contact us at 407-955-5000 to set up a free consultation today.




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