Misperception: Asylum seekers are just looking for an easy way to enter the U.S. without following proper immigration procedures

Clarification: Seeking asylum is a legal process provided for by U.S. and international law. Asylum seekers must demonstrate a credible fear of persecution in their home country based on specific criteria: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Misperception: Asylum seekers are a threat to national security

Clarification: While security concerns are taken seriously, the vast majority of asylum seekers are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries. They undergo rigorous screening and background checks by U.S. authorities before being granted asylum.

Misperception: Asylum seekers are primarily economic migrants seeking better opportunities

Clarification: While economic factors may influence migration decisions for some individuals, asylum seekers are distinct in that they are fleeing persecution and have a well-founded fear of harm if returned to their home countries. Persecution can take various forms, including physical violence, torture, imprisonment, threats, harassment, or other forms of harm that significantly harm or threaten an individual's life, liberty or physical integrity. Asylum is granted based on humanitarian grounds, not solely economic considerations.

Clarification: First, it is important to understand that asylum is a legal pathway into the United States. For many individuals facing persecution, violence or other forms of harm in their home countries, seeking asylum is often their only viable route to safety in the United States due to restrictive immigration policies, limited or no access to visas, the inability to apply for refugee resettlement within their home country, or the absence of family or employment ties that could facilitate entry through other channels.

Misperception: Asylum seekers receive lavish benefits and live off taxpayer money

Clarification: Asylum seekers are not eligible for resettlement assistance nor are they eligible for most federal public benefits programs. They may receive limited assistance through non-profit organizations or government programs designed to support refugees and asylum seekers during the application process, but are typically quite vulnerable while awaiting determination of their status. Once granted asylum, individuals are expected to support themselves and contribute to society like any other lawful resident.

Misperception: Asylum seekers and migrants are criminals that risk our public safety

Clarification: Multiple studies have found that immigrants, including both documented and undocumented individuals, are less likely to commit crimes compared to native-born citizens. For example, a study published in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice found that immigration is associated with lower crime rates, and areas with higher concentrations of immigrants tend to have lower crime rates. Similarly, a report by the Cato Institute analyzed criminal conviction data in Texas and found that native-born citizens were more likely to be convicted of crimes than immigrants, including both legal and undocumented immigrants. It's essential to note that immigrants, including undocumented individuals, face unique challenges and vulnerabilities that may make them more susceptible to exploitation and victimization, rather than perpetration of crime. Additionally, immigrants contribute positively to their communities, through their work, economic contributions, and cultural enrichment.

Misperception: Asylum seekers abuse the system and make up stories of persecution, which is why so many cases are denied

Clarification: Asylum law is very complex and requires individuals to meet a number of legal thresholds to qualify for protection. Individuals who arrive in the U.S. often face language barriers and have limited or no access to legal counsel while going through the process. Studies consistently show that having legal representation significantly increases an asylum seeker's changes of success in their asylum case. A report by the American Immigration Counsel suggests that asylum seekers with legal representation are more than five times as likely to be granted asylum compared to those without, suggesting that it is not the validity of an applicant's well-founded fear of persecution that leads to denial of their case, but rather their access or lack thereof to legal representation.

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