Asylees Who Get Green Cards No Longer Protected From Removal on Some Grounds, Says B.I.A.

Some bases upon which one can be removed (deported) from the U.S. won't prevent someone from getting asylum or remaining in the U.S. as an asylee--but what the person becomes deportable after getting a green card?

** LEGAL UPDATE **

A recent decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals (B.I.A.), which is the appeals body that hears cases coming out of the U.S. immigration courts (or Executive Office for Immigration Review/EOIR), offers an alarming reminder to U.S. recipients of asylum status: their right to stay in the U.S. is not as secure as they might believe, particularly for those who wish to apply for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence).

In attempting to clarify a previous decision called Matter of C-J-H-, the B.I.A. stated that a non-citizen who obtains a green card ("adjusts status") under the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) § 209(b) changes status from asylee (a non-citizen who was granted asylum) to that of green card holder (a noncitizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence). The result, in legal terms, is termination of the person's asylee status.

The case before the B.I.A. concerned a man from Pakistan, who had received asylum in 1992, and who subsequently applied for and received a green card. But he was then was convicted of a drug crime (which is a ground for deportation) in 2013, after which removal proceedings were begun against him.

In order to protect people who have received asylum, a portion of the I.N.A., § 208(c)(1)(A), states that: "In the case of an alien granted asylum under subsection (b), the Attorney General (A) shall not remove or return the alien to the alien's country of nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, the country of the alien's last habitual residence . . ."

But that offers no protection against deportation and return after the person's asylum status is over and he or she has become a permanent resident, according to the B.I.A. decision. The Board specifically stated that the restrictions on removal in I.N.A. §208(c)(1)(A) do not apply to non-citizens who had been granted asylum but whose status has since been adjusted to non-citizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

If you are an asylee, there are important reasons to apply for lawful permanent residence. In particular, if conditions in your country change for the better as the years go by, there's a possibility that your asylum status could be terminated BEFORE you have a chance to be approved for lawful permanent residence, leaving you no opportunity to work your way toward U.S. citizenship, the most secure status available under U.S. immigration laws.

Nevertheless, this risk should be weighed against any possibility that you might be deportable now, or become so in the future. See an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer for a full analysis of your situation.

(For the full decision, see Matter of N-A-I-, 27 I&N Dec. 72 (B.I.A. 2017).)

Effective Date: August 3, 2017.