Llegando a los Estados Unidos

Informacion para inmigrantes y buscadores de asilo en español:

arriving to the u.s.a

information for asylum seekers and immigrants

This information is the first of Nosapo’s installment for people arriving to the United States to seek asylum.

We have tried to list pertinent information regarding how to apply for asylum safely, with the most accurate direction and current news on United States policies as well as policies in Arizona, California, and Texas.


The information we are sharing should not be considered legal advice. Detained immigrants and their loved ones are encouraged to seek qualified legal advice from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigrant Justice Center or another credible organization.

Print & Distribute the Booklet - Abbreviated, Pertinent Information

The English version contains additional terms and detail for those assisting migrants/working in the field to understand a little more background information. 

Printing Instructions: Print double sided, *flip on short edge, and orientation is landscape.



Recent policies and practices affecting asylum seekers at the southern U.S. bordeR

(Edited 8/6/2019)

  • Rejections: On September 11, 2019 a rule has been allowed to take effect pending legal challenges, stating anyone who has not already been denied asylum in one of the countries they traveled through on their way to the United States, will be rejected to apply for asylum in the United States of America.

  • Obstruction: In November 2018, the Trump administration declared, unlawfully, that asylum- seekers must arrive to the United States at official ports of entry to qualify for asylum. In January 2019, the administration began to implement a “remain in Mexico” plan through which it returns Central American asylum seekers to Mexico to wait during the decision of their asylum cases. 

Asylum seekers were already obstructed from accessing ports of entry, by being turned away outright or some ports were/have been limiting the number of people who can enter each day (known as “metering”). 

  • Prosecution: In the past, the U.S. has criminally prosecuted individuals for having multiple “unlawful” entries into the country. But in April, 2018, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance policy,” ordering prosecutors along the border to prosecute to the extent possible anyone who crossed the border irregularly, including asylum seekers. The policy led to family separation on a massive scale. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, some separations continue.

  • Detention: Upon arrival, asylum seekers are exposed to a dangerous and unaccountable immigration detention system. Many asylum seekers coming to the U.S. had no idea they would be handcuffed and put in prison-like cells.
    Today, the first destination for individuals crossing the southern border irregularly, including those with minor children, is the hielera, or “icebox.” While this nickname describes the cold condition of the detention centers, the facility also has no windows and the lights are on twenty-four hours every day. Throughout the immigration detention system, medical care has repeatedly proven dangerously substandard.

The U.S. immigration detention contains the presence of uniformed personnel and guns, the probability of being handcuffed and shackled, and institutional surroundings. 

Often when arriving in the U.S., adult asylum seekers are kept in detention while their asylum cases are pending, which can last many years. The many factors that impact the length of their detention are out of the individual’s control.


Ports of Entry

Before the Border

People generally have greater legal protections inside the country than at the border.

Before the United States border, in Mexico, Mexican immigration agents may be stopping you or your family if they think you may be traveling to the states to seek asylum. They may ask to see any paperwork you have, your identification, and visa. If you do not have papers with you that state your lawful presence in Mexico, you may be detained in Mexico and deported. (1)

Asylum Process

Under international law, “We have a duty not to return a person to a country where they may face torture or other serious harm.”

All of these steps are part of the US’ legal obligations toward asylum-seekers under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Official protocols for a standard asylum process at all points of entry are not clear.

Customs and Border Protection has not clarified for the public what its protocols are. (2)

The following events are likely:

  • Demonstrating credible fear is not a guarantee to be granted asylum; but allows you to move on in the asylum process.
  • Ask to have an interpreter present.
  • Because this is a ‘civil proceeding’ the government will not provide a lawyer. (4)
  • When a negative finding of credible fear is found, the person, by law, has a right to request an immigration judge to review their case.
  • Even that is not a guarantee of being able to stay in the US. The vast majority of Central and South Americans who appear before judges are denied asylum.
    1. Once at the port of entry, you may be put into custody/immigration detention, or you may be stopped from entering the United States.

    2. Asylum-seekers are then put in expedited removal, or deportation proceedings.

    3. At a deportation proceeding, during the question and answer session, as an asylum-seeker, you must testify why you fear returning to your home country. This is called ‘credible fear,’ and it can be based on five categories: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Poverty is not considered credible fear. (3)

    4. After a deportation proceeding, your asylum case will be referred to a regional asylum office.

    5. You will have to remain in detention until your interview.

    6. If border officials decide that you do not have credible fear, request a review by an immigration judge.(Footnote)

    7. If it is then decided that you do have credible fear, you are sometimes — but not always — released from custody and ordered to appear later before an immigration judge to present your case.

    8. If granted asylum, you will be given a green card one year after the date of approval.

    If you are being held in immigration jail and would like to seek removal relief, it is critical to contact an attorney. (5)


    Forms of Protection

    • Affirmative Asylum-Form 1-589

      A one-year statute of limitations (statute of limitations are laws that state the time limits for legal action) for people seeking asylum who entered the U.S. on any type of visa. If you fear for your life or you have experienced human rights violations against you in your home country, you may be eligible to apply for asylum within one year of arriving. If you are granted asylum, you will be able to live and work in the U.S., and you will have the right to apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.

      • If you missed the one-year filing deadline for asylum or are not eligible for asylum for another reason, you will have to apply for the Convention Against Torture (CAT) treaty in order to stay in the United States.

    • Withholding of Removal-Form 1-589:

      Under Withholding of removal, you cannot apply to be a lawful permanent resident, but you can live and work in the U.S.

      • To be approved for withholding of removal, you must prove that persecution in your home country is probable, not just possible, and entails a hearing at which an immigration judge will ultimately decide to either allow you to obtain status or deport you.

    • Convention Against Torture (CAT) Treaty Relief-Form I-589:

      If you are not eligible for removal relief under asylum or withholding of removal status, you may qualify under CAT. If you have been convicted of a felony or other serious crime, you will only be able to apply for CAT.

      • To be approved for a CAT, you must prove that you will be tortured if you are returned to your home country.


    Deportation and Due Process

    No one in immigration detention should be deported without a bond hearing. During a bond hearing it must be proven that detention is necessary to protect against danger to the community or flight risk.

    Who is ICE-Immigration and Customs Enforcement

    ICE agents present themselves as ‘police,’ and may be dressed like police. If you are approached by someone that you think may be an ICE agent, ask if they are from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

    Those at risk of being deported by ICE: The law allows federal government to deport certain immigrants including: anyone without lawful immigration status & people with status (LPR, refugee or visa holder) who may have committed a crime.

    People with legal status and prior convictions that may be targeted by ICE:
  • Your conviction is from years ago
  • You didn’t serve time in jail
  • Your case was a minor or misdemeanor
  • You have serious medical issues
  • You’ve been an LPR for a long time
  • All other members of your family are US citizens (5)
  • The truth is, the United States has mandatory deportation laws that needlessly separate families--this has not changed. And also,not everyone in detention has been given an attorney by the government, instead mass hearings have become common.

    Over half of individuals in immigration court proceedings are unrepresented, including 84 percent of those in detention. (6)

    Illegal immigrants do have the right to due process. However, the US government can bypass this process. Fortunately, courts have consistently held that anyone on United States soil is protected by the Constitution’s right to due process, even if they illegally entered the country, although what the due process is may be manipulated under circumstances and people in power.

    If you were ordered to leave the country:

    • You can fight deportation in immigration court overseen by the Justice Department,  presenting your story and evidence before an immigration judge.

    • You should try to be represented by a lawyer and can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (a section of the Justice Department).

    • If the immigration appeals board still orders a deportation, the ruling can be challenged again in front of a federal court, but this process can take months or even years, especially because there is a large backlog of cases.

    • Again, the US government can bypass this process. A 1996 statute permits immigration authorities to deport people without a hearing, a lawyer or a right of appeal under “certain conditions;” this process is known as expedited removal.

      • Officers at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services — not a judge — should review cases to decide whether applicants have credible fear. During this process, you will be placed in the immigration court system. If officers decide there is not credible fear, you still have a right to appeal that denial to an immigration judge, who has seven days to decide.

    • Under current policy, the Department of Homeland Security criteria for expedited removals apply to undocumented migrants found within 100 miles of the border and within 14 days of entering the country. These laws impose no geographic limit and allow for expedited removals up to two years after a migrant has entered the country. (7)

    Knowing your Rights / Immigrant Rights

    Zero Tolerance and Criminal Prosecution
    Asylum and deportation proceedings are a civil process, but the government can separately pursue criminal prosecution in regular federal court. Illegally entering the United States is a misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony for repeat offenders. In April (2018), Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy for any crime, including entering the country illegally. Meaning, entering the country illegally counts as a felony, it can be used as a reason for deportation without due process-expedited removal.

    No human being can be “illegal” or outside the protection of the law-this is over-stated in international human rights documents. Despite the fact that discrimination and abuse based on immigration status are violations of human rights, current U.S. government policies violate these human rights of immigrants and migrants. The most common violations include racial profiling, border killings, denial of due process rights, and unlawful detention. (Footnote, 1) (8)

    Immigrants who have violated the law (such as overstaying a visa, committing certain criminal offenses, working illegally, falsifying documents, voting illegally or helping others enter the U.S. illegally, entering the U.S illegally) still have federal rights. These rights include the following:

    • Legal representation

    • Notice of charges against them

    • Examination of the evidence against them

    • Cross-examination of government witnesses

    • Offer evidence in the case

    • Appeal the deportation order (9)

    Unaccompanied minors

    We recommend this manual for minors to know their human rights.


    The right to emergency care: Under federal law, hospitals that receive federal funding – and most do – are required to provide emergency care, regardless of immigration status or insurance. Hospital officials must provide care until the patient is stabilized, but not beyond that point. Hospitals also must develop a release plan for such patients, arranging for the healthcare-whether discussed with the patient to continue care as instructed or return for a follow-up. These hospitals maintain a no-turn-away policy and will not turn any person away due to immigration status.

    The right to healthcare under health safety net: (Health safety net-national)

    • ICE officers are generally barred from private areas of a health facility.

    • You have the right to refuse to answer questions from immigration agents and other law enforcement as well as insist that a lawyer be present if questioned.

    • Your health care information is protected by federal and state laws. (Footnote, 2)

    In California, immigrants who are not lawfully present can apply through Covered California to see if they are eligible for health plan options through Medi-Cal, although the benefits may be limited. Immigrants who are not lawfully present can also buy private health insurance coverage on their own outside of Covered California.

    Primary care is delivered to at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in Texas or via safety net hospital systems. Both locations care for uninsured and indigent patients, regardless of citizenship.


    1. The following is a short list of human rights that may be violated by the US government, however should still be instilled and protected:
  • No human being is illegal-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Seeking asylum is not a crime, and neither is entering a country irregularly.” The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has specifically recommended that the U.S. treat irregular immigration as a civil matter, rather than a criminal matter.

  • Best interests of the child-authorities prioritize the “best interests of the child” in actions that affect minors

  • Detention as a last resort-International human rights law provides that adult migrants may be administratively detained only in limited circumstances, and that migrant children generally should not be detained.

  • Right to life-Human rights law requires governments to refrain from arbitrarily taking a person’s life and to enact positive measures to prevent loss of life, especially with regard to individuals in State custody.

  • Due process and immigration proceedings-Human rights bodies have urged States, including the U.S., to ensure that immigration proceedings comport with due process. See, e.g., Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of the United States of America, UN Doc. CCPR/C/USA/CO/4, para. 15. Moreover, all migrants are entitled to minimum due process guarantees that include the rights to: prior notification of the proceeding to determine their status, to have their detention reviewed by the relevant authority, a hearing and time to prepare, the assistance of a translator or interpreter, legal counsel, a decision on their rights and status that is reasoned and substantiated, notification of the decision, an appeal, and access to consular assistance.

  • Right to seek asylum-International law, including the 1967 Protocol to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, protects individuals’ right to seek asylum. This includes the opportunity to request asylum, due process in determination of that claim, and freedom from arbitrary detention or prosecution. Asylum seekers must not be criminally prosecuted for requesting asylum, no matter whether they enter the country without authorization.

  • Non-refoulement-The legal principle of non-refoulement protects individuals from deportation to a country where their lives would be at risk, regardless of whether they meet the legal requirements for asylum. See, e.g., Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, UN Doc. A/70/303, 7 August 2015, para. 38.

  • Prohibition on Torture & Inhumane Treatment-The prohibition on torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is firmly established in international law. In the detention context, this prohibition extends beyond acts of physical violence to also require that conditions of detention are appropriate and humane, and access to medical care, adequate food and water, opportunities for recreation, and other basic needs. See, e.g., IJRC, Torture; IACHR, Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas. (10)

    2. The National Immigration Law Center also provides assistance to clinics for the staff training and last year created a webinar on the rights of clinic patients as well as an issue brief called “Know Your Rights, Know Your Patients’ Rights.”



    1. Dominguez, A., & Seifert, M. (2018, August 09). At US Ports of Entry, the Government Is Denying Asylum to Those Seeking Refuge. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses/us-ports-entry-government-denying-asylum-those

    2. Karas, T. (2018, May 1). How does seeking asylum work at the US border? Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-05-01/how-does-seeking-asylum-work-us-border

    3. Karas, T. (2018, May 1). How does seeking asylum work at the US border? Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-05-01/how-does-seeking-asylum-work-us-border

    4. Yegani, M. (n.d.). Houston Immigration Lawyer. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.law-mana.com

    5. Immigrant Defense Project. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.immigrantdefenseproject.org/wp-content/uploads/IDP-ICE-Raids-Booklet-ENG-May-2017.pdf

    6. Deportation and Due Process. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights/deportation-and-due-process

    7. Benner, K., & Savage, C. (2018, June 25). Due Process for Undocumented Immigrants, Explained. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/us/politics/due-process-undocumented-immigrants.html

    8. Human Rights and Immigration. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.aclu.org/issues/human-rights/human-rights-and-immigration

    9. Yegani, M. (n.d.). Houston Deportation Defense Attorney. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.law-mana.com/immigration/immigration-detention/

    10. Ten Human Rights Standards Implicated by U.S. Immigration Policy Changes. (2018, June 28). Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://ijrcenter.org/2018/06/27/ten-human-rights-standards-implicated-by-u-s-immigration-policy/