Who Are Asylum Seekers?
Asylum seekers are those who have fled their country of origin and are unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
Unlike refugees, they do not apply from abroad. They are exercising their legal right to seek asylum – which actually requires that they apply at a port of entry or from the interior of the United States.
Historically, refugees have benefited from a robust infrastructure that supports their integration in the United States, including access to state benefits and a pathway to citizenship. However, asylum seekers and other forced migrants – who often come from the same countries of origin and have experienced similar persecution as refugees – face a multitude of systematic challenges and find themselves at risk of deportation back to the danger they fled.
Upon release from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody, these individuals and families must immediately determine where they will settle in the United States, find temporary shelter, and arrange travel to their destination with little to no government assistance. Once they arrive in their final destination, asylum seekers juggle a multitude of intersecting needs – securing stable and affordable housing, enrolling children in school, managing physical and mental health, and obtaining basic necessities – all while managing the complexities of their ongoing legal cases.
They must navigate a new culture and society, hesitant to pursue the few services for which they were eligible, due to fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. All of these factors leave asylum seekers and other forced migrants at increased risk of trafficking, exploitation, social isolation, and economic insecurity.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is here to help.
LIRS Asylum Services
The LIRS asylum services network provides 72-hour respite services to immigrants after crossing the southern border. LIRS partners ensure a dignified welcome and safe transition for individuals and families released from immigration detention by providing short-term shelter, hot meals and showers, phone access to communicate with relatives, Know Your Rights orientation, transportation and travel coordination, supplies for the journey, and referrals to community service providers in their final destination.
LIRS Welcome Centers
Through our Welcome Centers, the LIRS asylum services network provides wraparound services and trauma-informed case management to asylum-seeking families and individuals in their final destinations. LIRS partners empower families to achieve greater stability and well-being in their new communities through referrals to social and community services, including legal assistance, Know Your Rights orientation, adult education, school enrollment for children, and mental and physical healthcare.
Pen Pal Program
When asylum seekers come to the United States, they are usually incarcerated while they await their legal processing. Immigration detention is the process of detaining non-citizens in prison or prison-like settings while their immigration case is processed. They can be detained for weeks, months or sometimes years. We believe that immigrants held in detention centers need to know that we remember and care about them, particularly while Covid-19 prevents in-person visits. Our Mobilization team invites you to join or start a Pen Pal program to become a friendly voice of welcome to detained immigrants.
In collaboration with a national network of partners, LIRS is committed to providing hope, strength and a voice to those in immigration detention. LIRS empowers congregations, community groups, and individual volunteers to launch and grow detention visitation ministries through resource development, training opportunities, and the distribution of small grants. There are many ways for you to get involved! Learn more.