Can I get asylum after years of discrimination and harassment in my country?

The key in such a case will be to show the severity of the discrimination and harassment, and how it affected you.

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Question

I am a citizen of Russia, in the former Soviet Union, and my father is Jewish. I spent my entire childhood crying and switching schools because the kids and teachers called me sectarian names and threw rocks at me. Though I did well on exams only one university admitted me. I had a very low self esteem and finally left. Can I get asylum in the United States?

Answer

Discrimination and harassment can be considered persecution, which is a key element in claiming asylum in the United States. In deciding whether the discrimination and harassment you suffered were severe enough to be considered persecution, however, you need to look at how you were affected and how you tried to mitigate the effects.

Did you file any reports on the teachers and the students who harassed you as a child? If you did not, why didn’t you? How many schools did you attend and what was the process you had to go through to switch schools? It is important to note the quality of the education you obtained. Did your education suffer because of the number of times you switched schools? Even though you gained entrance to only one university, what was the university that you attended and did you graduate? Were you able to get a job? Did things become better or worse over time?

Be sure to think about other ways you may have experienced harassment and discrimination outside of the context of education. Was your ability to travel and to own property restricted as compared with citizens of other nationalities? Were you able to obtain official documents in the same way? Did you have to carry identification that others did not?

If the only harassment and discrimination you experienced was as a child in school, and you were able to obtain a university degree and a job, it is likely that a judge or officer will find that you have not experienced persecution. In this case you will not be granted asylum.

If, however, you have numerous police reports of harassment and discrimination compiled over many years, you were not able to graduate from university because the teachers kept lowering your grades, and you were not able to obtain sustainable employment, a judge or officer might find that you have experienced persecution. In this case you should file an affidavit along with your application for asylum detailing the specifics of your claim in a coherent, chronological manner.

If you have suffered numerous instances of what you believe is persecution, consider writing that broad statement in your affidavit and specify only the worst examples. You should be able to detail everything that happened to you at your asylum interview or hearing even if you have not detailed every incident in your affidavit.

It is often difficult to convince a judge or officer that this type of suffering is persecution but it can be done. It would be helpful to seek the services of an experienced immigration attorney in this case.

by: , J.D., LL.M.

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