The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) relies on a process called “expedited removal” to quickly remove noncitizens who presently are unauthorized to be in the country and whom U.S. officials may encounter near the border. If a noncitizen tells DHS they fear returning home, DHS will give them the opportunity for a “credible fear interview” with the USCIS Asylum Office.
Those found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture are considered asylum seekers who then are referred to the Immigration Court to undergo the defensive asylum process. “Credible fear,” according to USCIS, means a “significant possibility” of being able to establish in a hearing before an Immigration Judge that the noncitizen has been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion if returned to their home country.
If a person instead re-enters the U.S. after having already been removed, that person when encountering a U.S. officer would be subject to “reinstatement.” A person under the reinstatement process who expresses a fear of returning home would have the opportunity to meet with an asylum officer for a “reasonable fear interview” (in contrast to the credible fear interview for persons seeking asylum).
A person who holds a reasonable fear of persecution or torture in their home country is ineligible for asylum, but may be eligible for withholding of removal, and would be referred to Immigration Court for a withholding or deferral of removal hearing.