On January 29th the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has promulgated a new, double-edged policy with disturbing implications for torture survivors seeking asylum.
The new rules are still in the process of being clarified at the regional office level, but we are prepared to help survivors as much as we can for whatever situation that may result from the new rule.
First… It may potentially put the lives of thousands of new asylum seekers and torture survivors in a situation of uncertainty about their future, as they have already went through a lot.
Second…it delays—even longer—the asylum process for current TASSC survivors who have already waited years for asylum
Under the new policy, the chronological order in which asylum interviews will be scheduled has been reversed. Individuals who filed most recently (within the last 21 days), will be scheduled for an interview first. Then the most recent applicants will be scheduled and the ones who filed earliest, will be interviewed last.
Many of TASSC's survivors are understandably distressed because they applied in 2015 and 2016 and will probably have their interviews delayed for even longer.
These delays carry disturbing consequences. Many survivors have already missed the birth of their child or have not seen their young children in years. Some have ill spouses; many have family members whose lives are in danger. These survivors might have their wait prolonged even longer.
An addition concern is that the new policy was announced on January 29, 2018 and was retroactive. Consequently, individuals who filed in December 2017 and January 2018 believing they were filing under the old rule are now, in fact, subject to the new rule.
We currently have survivors being served by TASSC who fall into this category, and we expect increasing numbers of requests from new victims of torture seeking asylum who fall under this category and would like to obtain TASSC services.
Need to Mobilize Additional Resources
Plainly put, this double-barreled assault by the Trump Administration puts unprecedented pressure not only on survivors, but on our lawyers, case managers and therapists in ways we’ve never seen.
TASSC is faced with some tough choices.
…..Choice #1. Mobilize immediate financial support to extend our part-time attorneys contracts; add more hours to existing case managers, hire a summer legal fellow to prepare cases and do community outreach ;
….CHOICE #2. Continue assisting current TASSC survivors, but turn our backs on newly arrived survivors seeking asylum knowing they are likely to be horribly unprepared to face an asylum officer and likely denied and subjected to more complicated appeal processes. That get worse when combined with threats of being deported to the home countries from which they fled only to face certain imprisonment and more torture, in case they are denied their asylum.
TASSC is determined to continue working on the current asylum cases we already handle. In addition, we must prepare to work with the ‘new’ asylum cases that will require a rapid response by lawyers, doctors and social services personnel. We will do this by give more hours to our part-time employees, training and building what amounts to a solid and comprehensive team to meet these challenges.
Defending against this latest assault by the Trump administration is going to take significant additional resources. Thus we are reaching out to current supporter and the concerned, caring public for emergency support.
Important Insights and Concerns
Applicants who filed their cases few days or months before the new rule may be affected, as they have applied expecting to have enough time to gradually complete their cases with more evidences. This means that they will not have enough time to gather evidences, do research, have their evidences translated, get medical and psychological forensics performed and other vital preparation.
The additional concern caused by this new rule lies in the reversal in normal scheduling. This means many of our survivors who have been waiting for years might have to wait even longer.
Current TASSC Survivors.
During this time TASSC needs to provide them with additional legal, psychological and social services to help allay the stress caused by this new situation.
The impact of this change and its implications for our survivors has been heart wrenching. Our staff has been doing everything they can to respond to the fear, panic, and confusion survivors are experiencing.
Our legal team has sprung into action to provide accurate information and strategize with survivors on how to best prepare their cases under the new process. Our team of lawyers is available for survivors who have questions and they are collecting more information on a daily basis about what will be the implication of the new rule and frequently share the information with survivors.
Our case managers and therapists are also going above and beyond to offer compassionate care and support to meet the logistical and emotional needs of our survivors. Survivors can call in anytime for information our ‘drop in’ policy has been reinforced for anyone needing emotional and psychological support during this stressful time.
TASSC remains steadfast in its dedication to create a safe space for survivors to sustain hope and persevere, no matter how trying the obstacles.
Each of Us Must Do Our Part
Please partner with us to help expand our reach to do more for these and the additional survivors coming into our office every week who are anxious to receive the asylum they desperately deserve and reunite with their families after excruciatingly long separations.