As an attorney I am often asked this question by clients and potential clients. This is a crucial question for Indonesians who want to live in the United States and may or may not fear returning to Indonesia.

From 1998 to 2000, it was relatively easy to apply for and be granted asylum if you were a woman, ethnically Chinese, and perhaps Christian. The riots of 1998, the murder, raping, and beating of many Indonesians of Chinese ancestry made relatively easy.

As time passed, however, and the security situation in Indonesia improved and elections were successfully held without violence, asylum applications came to be more and more denied.

My advice now to potential asylum applicants is to recommend that they try other possible means of remaining in the United States, such as applying for permanent residence through marriage or employment.

If they have no other realistic means to legally remain in the United States I caution them to think carefully about applying because if they are out of status (or nearly out of status) when they apply they will be placed into removal proceedings if their application for asylum is denied by the USCIS asylum office. If they are placed into removal proceedings, they will have a second chance to apply for asylum – this time in front of the immigration judge. But if they lose again, they will be ordered to leave the United States, either through removal or through voluntary departure.

Unless the person applies for asylum while they are still in legal non-immigration status they will be placed in removal proceedings if their application is denied by the asylum office.

The choice whether or not to apply is a difficult one. My general advice is that there is a probability they will be denied unless they can show that they experienced persecution personally. Just to say you were personally persecuted will not be enough. You will be expected to present corroborating documents, such as hospital or police records showing injury or a police filed opened as a result of an attack, for example. If the person cannot realistically show that he or she was persecuted denial is likely.

The choice is then between :(1) returning to Indonesia; (2) applying for asylum based on a weak application and risk being placed in removal proceedings if your application is denied by the asylum office, or; (3) going out of status and hiding without employment permission or a drivers license. Thousands of people hide, but it is obviously a very very difficult situation, entailing the chance of being reported and arrested at any time. Obviously, this is not an easy life.

If you do decide to apply for asylum the most important factor is a careful preparation of your application. A poorly-prepared application will almost certainly result in denial and your being placed in removal proceedings.

1 Sutter St., Suite 700
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 391-4949

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