What Rights Do You Have as a United States Immigrant?

Immigration law in the United States is complex and multi-tiered. It covers areas of law ranging from families to employment, and asylum requests to citizenship. In fact, the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which has served as the foundation of immigration law since its creation in 1952, is broken down into a full fifty separate subjects. As such, immigration law can be an overwhelming subject for anyone to tackle. Here, we’ll look at two common areas of concern in immigration law, asylum and deportation, and discuss how they impact your rights as a United States immigrant.

Asylum and Refugee Seekers

It is the right of immigrants to request asylum based on fear of persecution in their home country. If you are a victim of persecution, or there is a legitimate belief that you would be in danger if you were to return to your home country, you may qualify for temporary or permanent refugee status in the United States. Types of persecution that are considered valid include religious, political, racial, and ethnic, among others. In 1980, the U.S. Refugee Act was passed, and it serves as the framework for refugee law in the United States. The Act covers subjects including qualifications to seeking asylum, the application process, and resettlement of approved refugees.

It’s important to note that the burden of proof is on the applicant. The federal government requires that the person seeking asylum show there is a true threat of danger, and that is done via both a subjective and an objective test. The subjective test requires the applicant to show he has a legitimate fear based on any of the protected classes (religion, race, etc), and the objective test requires the applicant provide proof that there is a reasonable possibility that he will be persecuted if he returns to his home country. If an applicant can pass both tests, he may be granted asylum, which can then lead to citizenship.


Many immigrants in the United States fear the threat of deportation, regardless of their legal status. Why? There are myriad reasons for which a person can be deported, with two of the most common being a conviction for certain crimes and the inability to prove through documentation that he is here legally. Relative to documentation, if the federal government believes that someone has gained entry into the U.S. using falsified documents, the immigrant may face the prospect of being deported back to his home country. When that happens, parents are separated from their young children, people lose their jobs, and they are forced to return a country they left in order to pursue a better life.

Fortunately, though the process can be a bureaucratic nightmare, those facing deportation are not without rights. In fact, the initial burden of proof is on the federal government to show clear and convincing evidence that the person being charged has committed fraud or falsified records and documents. If the government does provide convincing evidence of fraud, the defendant has a legal right to rebut the accusation by showing that admission into the United States would have been granted admission even without the fraudulent documents. Even though you are not a United States citizen, you are still protected by due process, and even if there is a legitimate reason to deport you, there may still be alternatives available that allow you to remain in the United States.


The United States has a long, rich history of welcoming immigrants from all corners of the globe. Rights are afforded to people wishing to remain in the country because of fears of persecution back home, or because they have established roots here. Understanding those rights, and how they impact you, is the first step to securing permanent residency in the United States.