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A person seeks asylum when they are unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylum seekers apply either at a US port of entry or from within the US, whereas refugees apply from outside the US.
Affirmative asylum seekers have not begun the deportation process and present their case in a non-courtroom setting, while defensive asylum seekers are already in removal proceedings and present their case in front of an immigration judge. Denial of an affirmative application instantly begins the defensive asylum process.