COMMUNITY ASYLUM SEEKERS PROJECT
VOLUNTEER RESOURCE GUIDE 2021
Table of Contents
15: Local Resources
19: Further Reading
21: Contact Us
Welcome! CASP’s staff has put together this resource guide in order to familiarize new volunteers with the work we do and the mission and values that drive our support of people seeking asylum in the United States. Our goal is to create a central place for volunteers to look when they need quick information about resources for asylum support - and also to curate a living document of helpful resources and readings about asylum policy and the lived experience of the process asylum seekers are going through.
Working directly with asylum seekers is a rich and rewarding experience. You are joining a network of people across the country who have opened their homes and their lives to offer this particular kind of accompaniment, and who find themselves transformed by the experience. CASP’s staff is here to work with you and talk about the resources and support that we can provide together.
CASP formed as a nonprofit in 2016 and welcomed its first asylum-seeking family in 2017. Since then we have accompanied the asylum processes of twenty people by providing housing, legal aid, medical and mental health care, language learning, job training and placement, school enrollment, and a supportive community. We also work with a statewide network of ten asylum support organizations who share resources, and we host community education events about topics related to asylum support.
The mission of the Community Asylum Seekers Project is to cultivate a supportive community for those seeking asylum in the U.S, while offering basic needs and accompanying them on their journey towards building a life in this country.
What this means:
We frame our mission as driven first by the axis of a supportive community – with the provision of basic needs as one element of that support.
Building support, starting with ourselves.
We see ourselves as cultivating a supportive community – joining with our neighbors to examine racism and implicit biases and work together toward providing a radical welcome, support, and respect for all.
Staff and volunteers as accompaniers.
Our role in supporting asylum seekers is to help diminish the barriers that this country erects (physical, logistical, bureaucratic, and otherwise) to full inclusion. Accompaniment is a horizontal relationship of shared authority.
Building a life in this country.
CASP has often been described as helping asylum seekers "to achieve independence." If living with a pandemic has taught us anything, it's that none of us are independent – we rely on one another. Building a life is a collaborative process, not an isolating one, and we're grateful for the opportunity to accompany asylum-seekers on the journey.
People arriving at the U.S. border have the right to request asylum without being criminalized, turned back or separated from their children—even during a pandemic. Here’s how the process works:
Asylum is a form of protection purportedly granted to individuals who can demonstrate that they are unable or unwilling to return to their country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of:
• membership in a particular social group,
• or political opinion.
The right to seek asylum was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II. Congress adopted key provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention (including the international definition of a refugee) into U.S. immigration law when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980.
An asylum seeker is someone who has fled their home in search of safety and formally applied for legal protection in another country. Because they cannot obtain protection in their home country, they seek it elsewhere. Asylum seekers may be of any age, gender, class, or nationality.
“Asylee” is the term used in the U.S. for people who have been granted asylum. According to U.S. immigration law, a person granted asylum is legally allowed to remain in the country without fear of deportation. They qualify to work, travel abroad and apply for their spouse or children under the age of 21 to join them. Once someone receives asylum, they are eligible for refugee resettlement (cash) benefits for eight months, but they have to be requested!
A refugee is a person who has sought the same status from outside the country, and been granted that status prior to arrival. An asylum seeker is essentially a person who was not able to seek protection until they arrived inside the United States, or at the border.
Yes, seeking asylum is legal—even during a pandemic. Asylum seekers must be in the U.S. or at a port of entry (an airport or an official land crossing) to apply for, or request the opportunity to apply for, asylum. "There’s no way to ask for a visa or any type of authorization in advance for the purpose of seeking asylum,” says Byrne. “You just have to show up."
Asylum seekers who arrive at the U.S. border are typically placed in either immigration court removal proceedings, where they will have a future opportunity to make their case for asylum before an administrative judge, or in expedited removal proceedings, which allow border agents to order an individual deported from the U.S. without a hearing before a judge.
However, under U.S. law, if a person in expedited removal states a fear of return to their home country or intention to apply for asylum, they will be referred for a credible fear interview conducted by a trained asylum officer within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The asylum seeker must prove to the officer that there is a “significant possibility” they are eligible for asylum, and must also be subject to a credibility assessment. If the officer makes a positive finding, the asylum seeker is referred to an immigration court where they will have the opportunity to apply for asylum before an immigration judge. If the individual does not meet the credible fear screening standard, they can be deported.
Having a legal representative significantly increases the likelihood of success in asylum cases. One study found that asylum seekers who had submitted an asylum application before the immigration court were five times more likely to be granted asylum if they had a lawyer.
(from the American Rescue Committee)
Exercise: Navigate Your Way Through the Asylum Process (or try to)!
“We are here because you were there.” - Ambalavaner Sivanandan
At CASP, we try to remember that the kind of crisis that forces someone to pick up and leave everything they know and hold dear often arises from political, military, and economic interventions - past and present - carried out by our own government. Although many forms of violence can lead a person to seek asylum, some of them (including gang and paramilitary violence, generalized chaos following coups d’etat, and a foreign government’s inability to protect its own citizens) can be traced fairly directly to U.S. foreign and economic policy.
It matters because it changes the way we see our solidarity with asylum seekers. Seeking a safe and secure place to live isn’t a request for charity - it’s a request for reparations. Simply put, the U.S. owes asylum to the people it has displaced, and this is as true for Hondurans or Haitians as it is for people evacuating Afghanistan.
Check out these resources for more information, or pop into our office and borrow a book!
CASP’s staff depend heavily on our community of volunteers. We rely on you for everything from providing rides, interpretation, and social support to asylum seekers, to dropping by our office and adding some energy to the workday!
One of the most important things to know when you work with an asylum seeker is whom to call when you need something. Because our staff does not work on weekends, we encourage you to save our cell phone numbers only for emergencies that cannot wait until Monday morning. Your presence in an asylum seeker’s life is what enables us to conserve enough energy to do what we do all week.
If you join a support team for an asylum seeker, that team will be led by a Team Coordinator. Keep that person’s number for questions that arise (see our template for keeping track of important contact information). If you are the Team Coordinator, in an emergency you would call our Case Manager, and for general questions you would contact our Outreach Coordinator.
Working directly with asylum seekers is a rich and rewarding experience. The resilience, persistence, and faith with which people navigate the asylum system is incredibly inspiring. It can also leave us feeling unprepared, unhelpful, and drained - the challenges asylum seekers face are broad and structural, and too big for one person (or even a team of people) to solve. Below are some resources that might help give some context to the experience, and provide resources to make you feel equipped for this vitally important job! (Please note this resource guide is a living document. If you find resources you’d like us to add, please contact email@example.com.)
We often rely on volunteers to take asylum seekers to doctors’ appointments, therapy, DMV appointments, grocery stores, and whatever other needs come up in the course of a day. We would never be able to provide this support without your help, and we are deeply grateful for our volunteers who provide it. Below are some thoughts and resources about how to make that help as effective as possible.
Asylum Seekers’ Experiences of Bureaucracy May Be Different Than Yours.
If you experience unearned privilege because of your identity (because you’re white, cisgendered, able-bodied, or a native English speaker, for instance), you may be accustomed to assuming a good relationship with public service providers: police officers, DMV officials, employers, or people in the Social Security office. It’s important to remember that asylum seekers cannot always assume the same, and cannot always expect to be treated with respect and dignity. It’s vitally important that we respect asylum seekers’ reservations or concerns about people they may speak to, and not reassure them that whatever harm they experience is a matter of interpretation. People who live under systems of power are positioned to observe those systems most clearly - power is like a one-way mirror, and they are the experts.
Moreover, people with privilege are trained to trust public officials, and assume that what they say must be accurate. Especially in Vermont, where we have comparatively few immigrants, public officials often need to be educated about things like whether an asylum seeker is authorized to be in the country, or what forms of identification are issued by the government and therefore should be considered valid. CASP staff often encounter public officials who turned an asylum seeker away simply because (for example) they weren’t familiar with using an I-94 as a form of ID.
It’s important for accompaniers to be educated about asylum seekers’ rights in order to be effective advocates. If you are going to accompany an asylum seeker to an appointment with a public official and would like to talk to the staff to make sure you know the asylum seeker’s rights in advance, please reach out to our case manager!
Many thanks to our partners at Migrant Justice for creating this helpful guide to providing transportation for asylum seekers.
TRANSPORTATION VOLUNTEER GUIDELINES
Migrant Justice Solidarity Transportation Network
More information at www.migrantjustice.net; 802-540-8370; firstname.lastname@example.org
While all of these guidelines are very important please don't let fear and borders keep you from getting to know your neighbors! Being a solidarity driver is a vital role for allies. NO ONE in the state of Vermont has ever been found guilty of any act or crime for driving another human being! Nonetheless, when you are driving it’s most important to remember that what might be minor hassles for you (a ticket, a flat tire, an accident) might lead to the detention and deportation of a passenger. It’s very important to take time to learn about your rights should you be stopped by law enforcement or immigration before it happens!
The information below is intended to protect the safety and confidentiality of those persons requiring transportation and to protect you from potential abuse by law enforcement. It is intended to inform volunteers of some of the expectations and tips in order to have a positive experience while participating in the MIGRANT JUSTICE solidarity transportation network! Do not forget: for you, a traffic stop may only result in a traffic ticket and a fine but for your passenger a stop may have devastating results on them and their family so it is important to take these guidelines seriously so everyone can be as safe as possible.
A volunteer driver should:
As a result of Migrant Justice organizing the state of Vermont has adopted a bias free policing policy called Fair and Impartial Policing that significantly limits collaboration between police and Border Patrol/ICE. This means that routine traffic stops by VT law enforcement should remain focused on relevant traffic issues and not become focused on the identity of anyone in the car. Vermont police and sheriffs should also abstain from calling Border Patrol or ICE during traffic stops. Unfortunately the policy still contains some loopholes, and it is possible that outside Brattleboro, police may ask for immigration documents.
Below are some local businesses and tips for engaging medical offices, mechanics, and other institutions whose staff are already familiar with CASP or have offered to donate to or work with asylum seekers.
If you are accompanying an asylum seeker to a medical appointment, always ask for an interpreter. Healthcare offices are mandated to provide these services and it is important to make sure patients have access to all of the help to which they’re entitled.
The following therapists are aware of CASP and open to speaking with asylum-seekers, hosts, and volunteers. Please coordinate with our Case Manager before reaching out to any of them yourself.
Asylum seekers should be introduced to the following local resources, in conjunction with CASP’s case manager:
Houses of Worship:
These two places have offered to work with CASP on low-cost bikes or repairs:
Please coordinate with our Case Manager before signing someone up for any type of insurance.
Also check out the MileageSmart program for funding to purchase used cars.
CASP staff arranges for pro bono immigration attorneys to represent asylum seekers. Additional legal resources include the following:
Please coordinate with our Case Manager before opening up a bank account for an asylum seeker. These are the documents a person needs: an ID (driver’s license or work permit), SSN, and sometimes a job offer letter.
To receive a SSN, an asylum seeker needs their I-94 form, a work permit, or a passport (even if it’s non U.S.). Children get SSNs separately from their parents. The Social Security officer might not know asylum seekers’ rights to a social security number and the correct documentation needed for it. We expect volunteers to advocate for asylum seekers during these processes. Please make time to talk with CASP staff prior to accompanying an asylum seeker to the Social Security office.
📚 Tanya Golash-Boza, The Immigration Industrial Complex: Why We
📚 No Borders Manchester (UK), Borders: A Short and Tragic History
📚 NACLA’s Ten Years After the Honduran Coup reading list
📚 Juan González, Harvest of Empire; A History of Latinos in the United States
📚 Avi Chomsky, “They Take Our Jobs!” And 20 Other Myths About Immigration
📚 Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America
📚 Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop
📚 This episode of NPR's Code Switch podcast focuses on Afghan culture as told through the country's art and literature.
📚 Read about the long history of feminism in Afghanistan here.
📚 This interview with the well-known women's organization RAWA offers a feminist perspective on the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul.
📚 Hear the accounts of members of the U.S. military about the war and its legacies in Afghanistan on this episode of The Daily.
📚 This podcast from The Conversation delves into the seldom-told history of the Taliban.
📚 This short piece from Al-Jazeera encourages readers to take context into account when telling the history of the Taliban takeover.
Do you have ideas for additions to this guide? Questions about volunteering with CASP? Contact us!
Community Asylum Seekers Project
PO Box 1355
Brattleboro, VT 05302
Cristy Carretero, Outreach Coordinator: email@example.com
Kate Paarlberg-Kvam, Executive Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dora Urujeni, Case Manager: email@example.com