Caribbean Sees Drop In Asylum Approvals

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CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. Nov. 24, 2010: Over 2,300 Caribbean nationals were granted asylum in the U.S. last year, latest Immigration Court data reveal, a marked drop from the previous year.

The number of asylees from the region totaled 2,345 in 2009, down from 4,027 in 2008. The majority who received asylum in 2009, 1,809, was from Haiti but there were surprisingly others from all across the Caribbean region.

Cuba accounted for 189 while there were 135 approved cases from Jamaica according to the data analyzed by CaribWorldNews. There 64 were from the Dominican Republic, 48 from Guyana, 34 from Trinidad and Tobago, 16 from Belize and 8 from Suriname.

While there were seven approvals from St. Lucia and the Bahamas, 4 from St. Kitts Nevis, three from Barbados, 2 and Grenada, respectively, from Dominica and one each from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Netherland Antilles.

There are two ways that an immigrant may request asylum: `affirmatively` by completing an asylum application and filing it with a DHS Asylum Office; or `defensively` by requesting asylum before an immigration judge.

Immigrants who file affirmatively with DHS, but whose requests for asylum are not granted, are placed in removal proceedings and referred to the appropriate immigration court for a hearing.

Asylum regulations implemented in 1995 called for asylum applications to be processed within 180 days after filing. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 reiterated that time frame and calls for the administrative adjudication of an asylum application within 180 days of the application filing date, absent exceptional circumstances.

This process is time sensitive because the asylum applicant may not apply for employment authorization until 150 days after filing, and DHS then has 30 days to grant or deny employment authorization. The applicant can only be granted employment authorization if the asylum application has not been decided within 180 days of filing, provided there are no delays caused by the migrant. Consequently, expedited processing of asylum applications occurs when a migrant files `affirmatively` at a DHS Asylum Office and the application is referred to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) within 75 days of filing; or a migrant files an asylum application `defensively` with the EOIR.

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