Lately, Venezuelans ask me how the changes in the government might impact their chances of obtaining asylum in the United States. They are specifically referring to the death of President Hugo Chavez and the elections that are expected soon.
My answer is either it will affect your case dramatically or not at all.
If Venezuela's new government is nothing more than same old, same old, the U.S. government is not likely to view the death as a changed country condition. On the other hand, if the death of President Chavez becomes the first in a series of episodes which mark deteriorating country conditions, foreign nationals may benefit in two ways.
First, applicants may apply AFTER the one-year deadline if they can demonstrate that a changed country condition materially effects eligibility for filing. For example, if Venezuelans in the U.S. receive death threats because of a belief that they did not appropriately mourn the president's death (by closing their Venezuelan businesses abroad for the week, let's say), these persons should now file an asylum claim based on imputed political opinion. This is so even if the Venezuelans have been in the U.S. for over a year.
The second -- and perhaps most dramatic way -- that changed country conditions affect asylum cases is that denied applications may have a new chance at victory. This occurs when the prior country conditions were not so harmful that the applicant could demonstrate a well-founded fear of harm, but now -- due to changes in the country -- fear of harm is reasonable. In this case, Blandon Law attorneys file a Motion to Reopen based on this new evidence. When the case is reopened, we present the new evidence and allow the Immigration Judge to rule. Asylum cases are usually won after motions to reopen because the judge has already demonstrated a predisposition to believing the applicant, which was demonstrated by granting the motion.