My name isXXXXX'm a licensed attorney and am very happy to try and answer your question today. I am genuinely sorry for your circumstances and hope things soon look much brighter for you. I like your mention of seeking positive ideas. Yes, you are facing an uphill battle, but you already know that much, so as you say, let us focus on a solution rather than the problem.
So, here we go. In essence, the law provides for two circumstances whereby one in your shoes was excused from registering. The first instances would be to show you were not required to register (i.e. hospitalized, incarcerated, institutionalized, etc.). Initially, your student visa would have afforded you an exemption. However, staying on during the pendency of your political asylum application crossed that line. Accordingly, this will not be our focus in your case.
The second situation would be where one can show that the failure to register was not knowing and willful. That is the good news, here. Thus, this is where we will focus for your letter. You raise some excellent Constitutional points. The botXXXXX XXXXXne, however, is that they are not the most compelling arguments in such cases. Instead, you will be raising some different Constitutional arguments focusing on equitable grounds. I would encourage you to take a two-pronged approach. First, ideally you would try to convince Selective Service to change your registration status and thus restore your eligibility. Secondly, you would still present your case to the Congressman as you mentioned. You would include your reasoning (which I shall discuss below) in both your letter to the Congressman and in the last fillable paragraph of section two of the following document you will submit to the Selective Service directly:
Request for Status Information Letter
Here is your burden of proof. You will be required to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence (50% or greater likelihood) that your failure to register was not "willful and knowing". Those are two very important and powerful words packed with meaning. They describe conduct that was not merely an oversight, or negligence, or inadvertence. Rather, it would mean that back those years when you were in your early to mid 20s, you knew about the law and simply made a conscious decision to flaunt it and ignore the registration requirement. Obviously, that was not the case based upon what you have described here. Also, you have an argument in that it would be "manifestly unjust" and "unfairly harsh and punitive". All of these words in quotes are ones you should use in your statement.
Now, in terms of precise words and approach, stick with short and sweet, simple over flowery, and stick with the facts of your own experience. In other words, describe (speaking from the heart) how you were a hopeful yet frightened young immigrant seeking political asylum. You were entirely unaware of the registration requirement, quite naive concerning every aspect of our law, and suffered from a language barrier (if true) severely impacting your understanding of our law. Also describe how now, some two decades down the road, you simply want to further your education so you can give back to this country. You do not seek charity, but rather ask for a loan which you will pay back, with interest. Allowing this failure to register to haunt you all of these years later is "fundamentally unfair", "works an affront to fundamental notions of justice", and "amounts to an untenable restraint upon [your] right to the quiet pursuit of happiness".
The decision of the financial aid administrator is key here, so include any and all supporting documentation (i.e. immigration documents are especially relevant here) and/or explanation you can to substantiate your claim concerning seeking political asylum. Paint a picture of a scared, young, intimidated, naive immigrant landing on the shores of an imposing foreign land. The last thing on your mind was Selective Service registration. You left a hostile land, fearing for your very life. Those are certainly "extenuating circumstances" which only you can best relate as you lived through those years.
In all candor, many folks are simply out of luck in such matters. That isnot the case with you, however, especially given your political asylum seeking status. In other words, you do have reasonable grounds to hope for a successful outcome. Write from your gut, stick to the verifiable facts, and just be "you". I must say that you are quite well spoken and did a great job with your post here. Honestly, I have every confidence that you will express yourself quite nicely and in compelling fashion.
If you have a follow-up question or need clarification, please just say the word by using "reply" to reach me. I will be sure to check back for any further word from you when I am again working online in this forum.
I truly hope all works out for you and that the information I have provided proves useful. Thanks so much for using this service!