Recently, my office has received a large number of consultation inquiries regarding the status of their applications for asylum from the Philippines pending with INS. Many of these people arrived in the United States in the 1990s and filed for asylum themselves or with the assistance of a “consultant” or “notary.” In a typical case, the person provided the consultant with all of the information regarding what occurred in the Philippines that prompted them to seek asylum in the United States, and the consultant had the applicant sign a blank asylum application and told the applicant that they would “fill in all the appropriate information later.”
The asylum applicant would only find out later that the asylum application did not contain the correct information, and that the “consultant” had exaggerated the facts, or even fabricated facts believing this would make the case more successful. Many Filipinos have come to me lately, because the INS has finally scheduled them for an interview on their asylum application, or even issued them an Order to Show Cause (O.S.C.) before an Immigration Judge, believing that they were in terrible situation facing certain deportation.
The first thing I do is calm these people down, and then inform them that there are still options. A person in this situation has many options. Many people who have been receiving INS work authorization based on their asylum case are eligible to continue extending these work permits. If the person is afraid to continue with their case, arrangements may be made to legally discontinue the case. If the asylum applicant has a good case, but the person who prepared the application gave the INS incorrect information, this can be legally resolved and the INS will make a decision based on the “true story.”
The most encouraging part of all this is that there is still hope for asylum applicants from the Philippines, provided they proceed with caution, and are adequately represented when they receive an interview letter or Order to Show Cause after their interview. I inform my clients that if they already made one mistake in allowing an unqualified “consultant” to unprofessionally prepare their case in the beginning, they can still legally achieve their goal of becoming lawful permanent residents of the United States either through suspension of deportation (if in the U.S. 7 years or more) or through a labor certification. However, it is very important at this stage to be represented by an experienced Immigration Attorney.