For Asylum Seekers, Finding a Lawyer is Essential to Avoid Deportation

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A person has their back to the camera as they talk on the phone outside a house on a sunny day.
Pablo López makes phone calls to immigration lawyers, looking for help with his asylum claim, as he stands on the balcony of a friend's apartment in Walnut Creek on Nov. 9, 2021. López says he fled political violence in Nicaragua and asked KQED to use a variation on his name to protect his identity because he fears for his family's safety — and his own if he were forced to return to Nicaragua. (Tyche Hendricks/KQED)

The U.S. currently has an immigration court backlog that surpasses 1.5 million cases — and that includes many people who are seeking asylum from violence or persecution in their home countries.

In northern California, asylum cases are typically heard at an immigration court in San Francisco’s Financial District. That’s where KQED immigration editor Tyche Hendricks met Pablo López, a Nicaraguan man living in Walnut Creek as he awaits his opportunity to make his case before an immigration judge. But a recent attempt by the Biden Administration to speed up asylum claims is putting pressure on people like Pablo to find a lawyer ASAP, to better his chances of winning his claim.

Guest: Tyche Hendricks, KQED immigration editor


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