Legal Services - The Pro Bono Asylum Program (PBAP)
The Pro Bono Asylum Program (PBAP) is staffed by attorney Josh Rigney and volunteer attorneys, who have considerable experience and training in providing trauma-informed legal services to survivors of torture. They prepare the I-589 asylum application for survivors of torture and assist them in writing detailed personal statements describing the persecution they suffered in their home country. Furthermore, attorneys provide a list of types of evidence survivors should collect to support their asylum claim. Then, they review and provide suggestions on each piece of evidence the survivor collects. PBAP mails the application for the survivor with the proper supporting documentation to the correct United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center. Lastly, attorneys prepare survivors for the asylum interview and accompany them to the interview.
Under some circumstances, survivors living in Maryland may be referred to the immigration court in Baltimore. Those residing in Washington DC or Virginia would be referred to the court in Arlington, Virginia. A PBAP attorney will represent the survivor in immigration court.
Throughout this entire process, PBAP works with the survivor’s clinical case manager to ensure that they are meeting all of the survivor’s needs. Survivors are also referred for psychological evaluations and/or therapy from TASSC’s clinical psychologist. Survivors may also be referred to medical professionals with whom TASSC has longstanding relationships. Doctors can prepare medical reports that document physical evidence of the torture that forms the basis of the asylum claim.
"I have no words to explain how much Josh helped me through the asylum process. He understood so much about Ethiopian politics and the details of my case. I saw by looking at his face how happy he was to help people. Josh guided me in the right direction and because of him, the Asylum Office granted me 'Recommended Approval.’” Mengistu Abebe
I spent eight months preparing my case with Josh. He was always organized and remembered everything about my case even though he has lots of clients. Often I got emotional because I was worried about my family in Ethiopia but Josh kept me focused. It was difficult to discuss my torture with a man, but Josh is special, he made me feel comfortable. On July 5, I received asylum. I always tell other TASSC survivors: ‘Always listen to Josh, he is thinking about us.’” Bezawit (pseudonym)