In the past few months, many young men and women have contacted my office to tell me that they are from Uzbekistan or Tajikistan and have been living in New York City since they left their home countries. They tell me they are now curious about whether they could file for asylum while in New York City because they are
afraid to go back to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. Many of these young men and women entered the U.S. through a J1 visa (Work and Travel). Due to the instability of their countries and persecution they would face if they returned to their home country, these individuals have inquired about whether they would now be eligible to file for asylum.
After speaking with them at length about why they would be afraid to go back to their country, whether it be Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, they educated me about how their lives and beliefs have been shaped while in the United States. Never before having had any freedom to express their beliefs or opinions, or for that matter
never having been exposed to an environment where they would be able to critique the ruling government, they now feel that if they were to go back to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, they could not simply remain silent or complacent with the present political structure and severe restriction of fundamental human rights that is ever-present in those countries.
When I initially began hearing about these experiences, I began to wonder about these issues and how it could be part of an asylum case. After giving it some additional thought and discussing these issues with other colleagues, I have become convinced that these young minds have surely been shaped by their experiences in the United States. As a result of their current beliefs and activities, they now seem to have a legitimate fear of persecution based on their beliefs.
Surely there are many issues to deal with when it comes to filing for asylum, especially if the application is not filed within one year of entering the Unite States. However, as with everything else in life, there are always exceptions to the general rule. As an attorney, we are trained to take nothing at face value. Our duty is to our client and advocating the client’s position and claim is our number one priority. Life is never that simple, so it is rare that a client ever walks into our office and has a slam dunk case. So, these young men and women do have a valid claim.
It is experiences like these which remind me of how fortunate we are in the United States where we can openly criticize our government without fear of reprisals.