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Asylum, Withholding, and CAT

People fleeing persecution in their home countries may be eligible for asylum in the United States, as well as two related protections: withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Many non-citizens in detention apply for these forms of protection, but a lack of legal counsel seriously impedes many of them from winning their cases.

The materials on this page will guide you through every step in the process of representing a detained asylum seeker.

Getting Started: Overview of Asylum

For those new to asylum cases, this is the best place to start. The materials here provide a general overview of asylum law and procedure, with a focus on detained asylum cases. 

Master Calendar

The first several immigration court appearances in an asylum case are generally one or more “master calendar” hearings. These materials on this page will walk you through what Master Calendars are, how they work, and how to prepare for them. 

Asylum Application, Client Declaration, and Supporting Evidence

As you begin working with your client, you will draft his or her asylum application (the I-589), and a declaration with a detailed account of her or his story. You will also gather supporting evidence that corroborates your client’s story. The resources on this page will guide you through how to draft your client’s I-589 and asylum declaration, as well as what kind of supporting evidence you will need and how to obtain it. 

Country Conditions Research

One of the important elements in corroborating your client’s story is providing documentation of conditions in her or his country. These resources offer practice tips on how to conduct and organize your country conditions research, including links to numerous internet research sources. 

Motions in Immigration Court

At various points in your asylum representation, you may need to file a procedural motion with the immigration court. This might be a Motion for a Continuance if you need to request a later hearing date; a Motion for Telephonic Appearance or Telephonic Testimony; or a Motion to Accept Late-Filed Evidence.  On this page you will find sample motions that you can use and adapt. As always, make sure to consult the Immigration Court Practice Manual for detailed instructions on formatting and submission of motions. 

Researching Specific Issues in Asylum Law

Throughout the asylum representation you will need to research various aspects of asylum law. The resources below address asylum law generally, as well as selected specific issues. 

Working with Trauma Survivors

One of the challenges in detained asylum cases is working with a trauma survivor. The resources on this page provide techniques and guidance on how to effectively represent a trauma survivor, as well as how to recognize and handle secondary trauma. 

Drafting Asylum Brief

As part of the preparation for your client’s hearing, you may draft a pre-hearing brief. This page contains sample briefs on a range of issues. 

Preparing for the Individual Hearing

In the weeks leading up to your client’s individual hearing, you will prepare your client and any witnesses to testify. The materials on this page will help you prepare for the hearing. 

After the Decision

There are many possible outcomes at the end of an individual hearing. The materials on this page will provide you with information about the different possible IJ decisions and what they mean, as well as practical guidance to give your client about what happens after the decision. 

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The American Immigration Council warns non-citizens to guard against spoofing phone calls from ill-intended individuals seeking to create panic among our immigrant community. To learn more, please go to scam.immigrationcouncil.org.

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