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If you are seeking asylum from the United States, you must prove that you qualify as a “refugee.” The law defines a refugee as someone who has suffered past persecution or can show a well-founded fear of future persecution at the hands of either their government or actors their government is unable or unwilling to control. The persecution must be on account of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

There are two avenues to apply for asylum in the United States: affirmatively or defensively. To apply affirmatively, you submit an application for asylum and then receive an interview with an Asylum Officer from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS). The Asylum Officer will either grant the asylum application or refer the case to the immigration court. To apply for asylum defensively, a respondent in removal proceedings requests asylum as a form of relief from deportation. 

If you or a loved one is filing a defensive asylum claim, you must be aware that the two greatest predictors of success are 1) which immigration judge hears the case and 2) whether you are represented by an attorney. 

Although immigration attorneys deal with this issue daily, the public is largely unaware of the differences in asylum grant rates among the immigration courts and individual immigration judges. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University, asylum grant rates vary wildly from court to court. The TRAC report referenced here can be accessed at https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/judge2019/denialrates.html.

Unfortunately, the Atlanta Immigration Court is one of, if not the, most, hostile venues. Between 2014 and 2019, the average grant rate for asylum claims in the Atlanta Immigration Court was 3%. The grant rates of the 12 immigration judges in Atlanta during that period varied between 0% and 8.6%. Contrast that with the grant rates of the immigration judges in Baltimore (22.4% – 89.7%), Boston (26.2% – 74.1%), Los Angeles (non-detained) (4.5% – 65.9%), New York City (non-detained) (14.8% – 97.4%), and Miami (non-detained) (3.7% – 35%).

Changing venue from one immigration court to another is difficult and often impossible. Thus, to increase your chances of winning a defensive asylum claim, especially in a hostile immigration court such as Atlanta, it is critical that you have a seasoned, well-prepared immigration attorney. The attorneys at Antonini & Cohen understand the stakes in fighting deportation – loss of family, loss of income, and removal to a country to which you may have few ties remaining. Our attorneys practice immigration law exclusively and, as our reviews reflect, we fight tooth and nail for every client facing deportation. 

We  are experts in navigating USCIS and fighting for our clients’ rights in immigration court. We provide expert representation in obtaining green cards, appealing to the Board of Immigration Appeals, pursuing your rights in federal court, or in any other immigration – related matter. Contact us here to schedule a consultation with Atlanta’s best immigration lawyers. We’re open and available in person, by Zoom, or by phone at 404-850-9394.

Marshall Cohen
Marshall Cohen

Marshall Cohen is one of the founding principals of Antonini & Cohen. Admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1989, he has practiced immigration law exclusively for over 30 years. Mr. Cohen practices all areas of immigration law including family and employment cases, temporary and permanent visas, naturalization, deportation defense, and federal litigation.

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