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Asylum is a universal right. Every person should have the chance to seek safety from persecution.  

Each year, on July 28, we celebrate the anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, a foundation for international law protecting people fleeing violence and persecution and providing refugees access to education, health care, work opportunities, and legal protections.  

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” 

The Convention also specifies that an individual should not be forced to return to a country where they have experienced persecution or a “serious threat to their life and freedom.”  

Over 100 million people, including women, families, and children have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict, and persecution.  

One out of every five people displaced from their homes are from Central and South America— the top countries being Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, and Honduras—and in 2022, there was a record high of over 250,000 asylum applications in the United States.  


Universal Right to Asylum 

People fleeing violence and persecution have the right to apply for asylum and have their cases heard while remaining safe.  

The right to apply for asylum is protected by both international and U.S. law. While the qualifications differ from refugee status, the right to asylum is backed by the Refugee Convention of 1951. Additionally, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the U.S. law governing immigration, specifically states that any person arriving in the U.S. has the right to seek asylum.  

While asylum provides the same protections as refugee status, people seeking asylum in the United States must apply while inside of the country or from one of the 328 ports of entry.  

There are more people displaced today than ever before. But instead of keeping people safe, the current administration has adopted cruel policies to keep people out.  

The U.S. is failing its promise to offer protection to those who need it the most. Deterrence-based U.S. asylum policies continue to systematically endanger women, girls, and survivors seeking safety through asylum in the United States.  

…the US is repudiating its legal obligations under both domestic international laws and the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The US is also failing its moral obligations to respect the dignity of all migrants.” — “Surviving Deterrence: How U.S. Asylum Deterrence Policies Normalize Gender-Based Violence,” a report by Tahirih Justice Center and Oxfam America 

People seeking asylum in the United States are forced to navigate a complex process, often made more complicated by obstacles such as language barriers and trauma. Tahirih is dedicated to guiding immigrant survivors of gender-based violence through the US immigration system, providing trauma-informed direct legal and social services along the way.  

Asylum is not the only form of protection that people may seek in the United States. Our clients seek a variety of other temporary immigration benefits depending on their circumstances, including T visas, U visas, and Special Juvenile Immigration Status. 

For victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse, U visas offer critical protections and allow law enforcement to prosecute domestic violence cases. T visas offer critical protection and employment authorization to victims of human trafficking.  

For children and young adults who have experienced abuse, neglect, or abandonment, Special Juvenile Immigration Status is a vital avenue to being granted lawful permanent residence in the United States.  

All people have the right to asylum, and at Tahirih, we believe all people deserve the opportunity to seek and be granted protection in a safe, trauma-informed, and dignified way.  


Resources Referenced:  

ACLU, “Five Things to Know About the Right to Seek Asylum,” available at: 

UNHCR, “Displacement in Central America,” available at:  

UNHCR, “Refugee Data Finder,” available at:  

UNHCR, “The 1951 Refugee Convention,” available at:  

UNHCR, “With a fifth of the world’s forcibly displaced in the Americas,” available at: