Since passing a law last year which cracks down on illegal immigration in Georgia, many illegal immigrants have turned to a request for asylum as their last ditch effort to avoid deportation. Many disagree as to whether this request for asylum should be taken seriously or not by judges. Some believe that it is more understandable if an immigrant requests asylum upon entering the country illegally. Yet others argue that a return to their homeland would result in physical harm or even death and asylum is needed.
According to Amna Shirazi, an immigration attorney based in Norcross, “We are allowed to ask for it, so I don’t care if the judge gets frustrated. If I can find a better way for my client to get their green card, I do. I only ask for asylum if there is absolutely nothing else I can ask for.” Shirazi is the attorney representing 19 year old, Ivan Penaloza. He was arrested after getting into an argument with a police officer and is awaiting a decision by the judge in his case in a detention center.
Shirazi believes that although her client does not fit into one of the typical categories for asylum applicants, he does represent a new category that also demonstrates the need for asylum. According to Shirazi, her client is too ‘Americanized’ to return to Mexico. “We [attorneys] are trying to create this new class of protected people,” she said. “The more Americanized they are, the more tied they are to the United States. We have to litigate this class into existence, because it doesn’t exist.
During last year’s fiscal year 224 applications for asylum were completed by Mexican nationals in Atlanta. This number demonstrates a large increase from the previous year’s 59 applications. The six judges deciding many of these cases, however, have a denial rate of 80% making asylum cases very difficult for illegal immigrants in Georgia. Nationally, in 2011, 104 Mexicans were granted asylum, however none of these were in Georgia.
Ena Penaloza, the mother of Ivan, hopes that her son’s case will be taken seriously by these judges. She has heard of many stories about her drug plagued area of Mexico and fears for her son’s life if he is forced to return.