Advocacy and Outreach Program

The Advocacy and Outreach Program educates policymakers and the broader public about how to combat torture and support survivors living in the United States. Survivors are involved in developing and implementing TASSC’s advocacy agenda, which focuses on two or three key issues each year. This year the focus is on U.S. human rights policy toward countries such as Ethiopia, Cameroon, Eritrea and Sudan where survivors have fled, and the asylum backlog.

Because of the large increase in  asylum seekers from Central America, survivors now must wait two or even three years for their interview with an asylum officer in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where they submit their asylum application. This long wait takes a terrible toll on them; they are worried about their own personal safety and about their families back home being harassed or even killed by repressive governments.

Every June TASSC organizes Survivors Week to commemorate the UN’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26. The Advocacy Program holds a major Conference and an Advocacy Day in the U.S. Congress. In 2016 over 140 people attended the Conference, which included a keynote address by Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. 

More than 70 TASSC supporters and survivors visited Senate and House offices on Advocacy Day. They said the U.S. should pay more attention to human rights in Africa, not only counter-terrorism and economic issues, and explained why USCIS needs 800 asylum officers to reduce the backlog. Survivors also testified on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. Congress.  

The Advocacy and Outreach Program also trains survivors as part of its Truth Speakers Program.

This program brings survivors’ voices to schools, universities, faith-based institutions and human rights groups. In the last few years survivors have spoken at the College of New Jersey outside of Trenton; Catholic University; Montgomery College in Rockville, MD; the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars; Georgetown University, Gonzaga and Archbishop Carroll High Schools in Washington DC and various churches. They have also been invited to the Washington Hebrew Congregation for a Passover Seder and at a ceremony on World Refugee Day at the ADAMS Center mosque in Sterling, Virginia. 

If you would like to bring a TASSC Truth Speaker to your organization, to your school, university, church, synagogue or mosque, please contact Andrea Barron at Andrea@tassc.org.
 

Survivors Comment on Advocacy Day 2016

It was such a pleasure and an honor to visit offices in the Senate and the House of Representatives. I was so impressed about how attentively people listened to our survivor stories. In addition, I got a letter from Senator Ben Cardin responding to my letter that thanked him for supporting Senate Resolution 432 on Ethiopia. Wow- he is such an amazing guy, so concerned about human rights violations there. Jarso Assefa 

I went to Congress for the first time and used my freedom of speech to talk about what happened to me in Ethiopia. And I met survivors from Cameroon who were tortured just like me. I had no idea thishappens in other countries too. Maza (pseudonym)

Survivors from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Cameroon at the College of New Jersey with students and TASSC intern Alessandra Testa.

Survivors from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Cameroon at the College of New Jersey with students and TASSC intern Alessandra Testa.

Sudanese survivors and TASSC intern Sarah Gerwens visit office of Senator John McCain from Arizona during June Survivors Week 2016.

Sudanese survivors and TASSC intern Sarah Gerwens visit office of Senator John McCain from Arizona during June Survivors Week 2016.