The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) assists families crossing the border to seek safety in the United States. These families are commonly known as refugees, and legally known as asylum seekers. Families are fleeing life-threatening and sexual violence, including repeated beatings and rape. Our clients also suffer from extreme trauma as survivors of torture and witnesses to the murder of family and friends. Most are from Central America, with others traveling from countries as far as Syria, Eritrea, and Brazil.
Upon their arrival, families are separated by U.S. government officials, who incarcerate mothers and minor children in border detention centers run by private prison corporations, while holding male partners and relatives in separate facilities. For refugee women who secure their family’s release from detention, they must then navigate legal, medical, and education systems in an unfamiliar language and new country, all while continuing to pursue their asylum cases in immigration courts across the United States.
A shortage of pro bono attorneys has left thousands of refugees unable to find lawyers for themselves and their families. Nationwide, fewer than 3% of unrepresented families successfully secure asylum, with thousands of refugees receiving deportation orders despite having strong claims. Many families are deported simply for not coming to court because they did not know about their hearing or because of circumstances outside of their control, such as a medical emergency. Meanwhile, news sources such as The New Yorker and The Guardian have reported the murder of refugees after their wrongful deportation from the United States.