The numbers of migrants crossing the U.S. southwest border have reached all-time highs in recent months. The increase comes as the Trump administration takes steps to place more restrictions, including application fees and work permit restraints on asylum seekers at the southern border.
After migrants flee their home countries to seek protection in the United States, they must meet with an asylum officer. The migrants have to show that they would likely face persecution if they were to return home.
The majority of asylum seekers pass the screening, known as the credible fear interview, but the stakes are high. If an asylum officer finds that someone’s “credible fear” is valid, they refer the case to an immigration court for a full hearing. If not, the person is ordered to be deported. About 76 percent of asylum seekers passed their credible fear interviews in the 2018 fiscal year.
Now, eight Northeastern University law students are volunteering at the U.S. southern border in Dilley, Texas, to help asylum seekers prepare for their credible fear interviews. They are using a training manual to help guide them throughout the experience.
The manual comes with flash cards depicting illustrated representations of people, places, actions, and items that volunteers can use to help asylum seekers express themselves. It also contains tips and activities designed to help working with asylum seekers who are sharing stories of personal trauma and fear.
“I believe that it’s critical to give people as much information as possible for them to feel confident in advocating for themselves,” says Zoe Bowman,
a first-year law student who is helping the asylum seekers prepare for their screenings.
Over the past nine months, Northeastern students studying law have worked with their peers studying the arts to develop the booklet. The manual will be provided to other volunteers who will help to prep asylum seekers for their credible fear interviews in the future.