Monday, June 05, 2023

The celebration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a capstone to a revolution by the people of Egypt that saw the removal of Mubarak and inspired the world at large, has been followed by years of political turnover, jailed journalists, crumbling infrastructure, hundreds of murdered demonstrators and an abysmal youth unemployment rate. For many people of Egypt, not only have they been left disenfranchised and feeling devoid of any prospects in life, they feel as if they are in a constant state of danger. Young activists remember the sectarian unrest and threats against their lives. Scholars in the country are hyper aware of the how easily the current situations on the ground in Egypt could begin to produce more and more radicalization. The conditions in Egypt are at best up in the air, and at worst, a calamitous danger.

If you are from Egypt and have already managed to make it to the United States for fear of persecution, and are still here, it may be in your best interest to apply for asylum status, which would grant you special legal protection as well as the ability to work in the US so that you can begin to build a new life. According to the official US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, the reasons for which people may apply for asylum in the United States are persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group and political opinion. When thinking about Egypt specifically, the most successful applicants have applied either under persecution for political opinion, as there have been countless people injured and threatened for peaceful protest, as well as religious persecution, as many Coptic Christians have been in consistent danger of violence. As of 2013, Egyptians were actually the fifth largest group of international citizens that have been granted asylum in the United States in our history.

In terms of first steps in applying for asylum, within a year of arriving in the US, one must file a Form I-589, which is the Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. If you have children under 21 and/or a spouse, it is permissible to include them in the application. One very important note here is that if you have been in the country for over a year at the time that you would like to file, it is highly recommended that you talk to an attorney prior to submitting the application. Historically, officers have shown leniency here, but a denied asylum case will inevitably bring an applicant to immigration court.

As you work through the I-589 form, which asks for basic information and requires you to write about the details of any persecution that would make you eligible for asylum, make sure to be completely honest. Any inconsistencies between documents could gravely damage your chances of being successfully granted asylum. Thinking again about Egypt specifically, if you were among the thousands of protestors in any of the mass demonstrations that resulted in violence, harm and threats, you must pay close attention to Question 3A. Here is where you will be able to make a case for yourself as a peaceful protester that has been unduly targeted by your government. It’s important to stress that if you have been part of a protest group that has been accused of reverse persecution, which has not been unheard of in Egypt, again, it’s imperative that you consult an experienced immigration attorney. Being a member of a group that has developed a violent fringe, even if you were of the pure and peaceful intenders, is a major bar to asylum. That said, leaders of activist groups that have championed human and democratic rights, at the expense of their safety and security, have a long history of being granted asylum in the United States, and Egypt, especially since 2011, has become a major source of such people.

While Form I-589 might feel like tedium, a successful filing can change your life and bring tremendous opportunity. In addition to the completed form, a photo of yourself, and multiple copies of passports and IDs, it is also suggested that you attempt to provide a passionate written declaration detailing your experiences of persecution and outlining your potential fate should you return home. Additionally, declarations from friends and family, human rights activists who understand the situations in your country or any proof of persecution or damage are helpful in getting a favorable decision. A good attorney can help to not only make sure that your form is set up for success and going to the right place, but that your entire package tells the story of someone who needs to be in this country. You’ll feel more confident in your application and future in the United States if you consult and work with an experienced professional with a history of getting clients, who have often escaped from treachery, their asylum appeals granted.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, there is a new era of activists and proponents of democracy that are in danger in the Middle East. The United States has been an example to the world on refuge, and through our asylum program, we continue to lead. If you have already made it here, and if you fear persecution for your beliefs in your home country, let us help you remain in safety. This is a nation that thrives on the inclusion of all those seeking liberty and peace. Refuge is a responsibility.

*This article is based on information available as of its publication and is not intended to be all-inclusive or to furnish advice in a particular case. We are not responsible for any changes in regulations that may occur subsequent to publication. Please feel free to contact our office for further information and advice.

By Michael J. Wildes

Michael J. Wildes, is the Managing Partner of Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. Mr. Wildes is a former Federal Prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn (1989–1993). Mr. Wildes has testified on Capitol Hill in connection with anti-terrorism legislation and is internationally renowned for his successful representation of several defectors who have provided difficult-to-obtain national security information. He is frequently a legal commentator/analyst for network television. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and teaches Business Immigration Law. From 2004 through 2010, Mr. Wildes was also the Mayor of Englewood, New Jersey—where he resides. Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. has offices in New York, New Jersey, California and Florida. If you would like to contact Michael Wildes please email him at [email protected] and visit the firm’s website at www.wildeslaw.com.

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