What is Asylum?
Families escaping violence and persecution in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and other countries in crisis have undertaken a dangerous journey to seek safety in the United States.People arriving at the U.S. border have the right to request asylum without being criminalized, turned back, used for political stunts or separated from their children.
Asylum is a form of protection granted to individuals who can demonstrate that they are unable or unwilling to return to their country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account ofrace,religion,nationality,membership in a particular social group,or political opinion.The right to seek asylum was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II. Congress adopted key provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention (including the international definition of a refugee) into U.S. immigration law when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980.
Where do asylum seekers in the U.S. come from?
A substantial number of asylum seekers are fleeing violence, persecution, and natural disasters in Haiti and the northern Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Asylum seekers also come from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil, India, and African countries, such as Eritrea, Ghana, Ethiopia and Cameroon. A small number of Ukrainians have crossed the border from Mexico to ask for asylum.
How does the IRC help asylum seekers?
The IRC provides critical support to asylum seekers on both sides of the U.S. southern border. That includes providing transitional shelter, humanitarian assistance, medical care, legal orientation, and travel coordination to more than 50,000 asylum seekers released from U.S. government detention since June 2018. Throughout the U.S., the IRC provides legal services, case management, mental health and medical evaluations, and other services to asylum seekers in 28 offices.
In Latin America, the IRC works across the arc of the crisis: We are responding to the Venezuela crisis through local partners in Venezuela as well assisting Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and Ecuador. We also support vulnerable people in northern Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) and along the main migration corridors in Mexico, from the southern to the northern borders.
The IRC’s work in Latin America includes supporting women’s protection and empowerment, including violence prevention and protection of women, girls and members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been survivors of gender-based violence. We provide cultural orientation and support, as well as economic recovery and development. We also provide health services that include; primary, sexual and reproductive health care, and mental health and psychosocial support.
In recent years, we launched critical information services for asylum seekers and vulnerable communities: InfoPa’lante in Colombia, CuéntaNos in northern Central America and InfoDigna in Mexico are all part of our global Signpost project with partners including Mercy Corps, Google, Microsoft, Twilio, Cisco, Tripadvisor and Box. The digital platform includes an interactive map that connects asylum seekers and migrants to shelters, health care providers and other services. An additional service, ImportaMi, serves unaccompanied children who recently arrived in the U.S.
After the earthquake that hit Haiti in August 2021, we provided funding to support local organizationsFOSREF, FADHRIS and Kay Fanm. Their work includes programs that prevent gender-based violence, maintain mobile health clinics, provide shelter and rebuilding materials, as well as other critical support for Haitians to help address the conditions that are causing many to flee their country.
How can you continue to help asylum seekers?
Take action: Tell Congress to reject any attempts to maintain Title 42 and other harmful anti-asylum policies.
The IRC relies on generous supporters like you. Thank you for your lifesaving support.
The Impact of Your Support: Seeking Safety at the Border
The IRC provides critical support to asylum seekers on both sides of the U.S. southern border. That includes providing warm meals, clothing, transitional shelter and travel coordination to more than 8,000 asylum seekers released from U.S. government detention since June 2018. We are also working alongside partners to respond to asylum seekers’ urgent needs. In Mexico, the IRC is providing support to migrants and asylum seekers from the southern to the northern borders and in between. This support includes prevention and response to gender-based violence; access to critical information through InfoDigna, a multi-channel information platform; prevention and mitigation of COVID-19; economic recovery and development; and child protection services. We also identify needs and refer cases to local service providers where appropriate. For individuals who choose to stay in Mexico, the IRC provides cultural integration support.
With your generous donation, the IRC is supporting local partners in Mexico to aid migrants and asylum seekers stuck in border towns. We are supporting programs that work with women and girls who have experienced violence by increasing access to services such as medical care. We are also working with local partners on a COVID-19 public health awareness campaign along with psychosocial support in shelters at the Mexico-U.S. border in Ciudad Juárez. The project will directly benefit 17 shelters hosting approximately 3,000 people and reach an additional 10,000 in surrounding host communities. The initiative includes sessions on the transmission of COVID-19, protective and preventive measures, including identification of at-risk groups, signs and symptoms of COVID-19, where to access help and support, reinforcement of public health best practices and the distribution of hygiene kits.
What else can you do to help?
Advocate! A new bill introduced in the Senate would prevent the Biden Administration from ending the policy, known as Title 42, that denies people at the U.S.-Mexico border their legal right to asylum. Take action today to tell your senators to oppose this harmful legislation by clicking here.
With your help, the IRC is providing a lifeline of support to highly vulnerable families—both those who have been uprooted by violence in El Salvador as well as those who have sought asylum in the United States—including emergency cash support and essential supplies, food, healthcare, counseling and legal support.
El Salvador: A Lifeline for Families Uprooted by Violence
Decades of civil war and recent U.S. deportations have led to a dramatic increase in gang violence which is putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk. The level of violence in El Salvador is akin to the violence in war zones such as Syria. The murder rate for women recently reached an astonishing one in every 20 hours. Each year, some 300,000 Salvadorans flee their homes in search of safety and remain displaced in their country, without basic resources for survival.
The IRC was one of the first international organizations to declare a humanitarian crisis in El Salvador. Backed by your support, the IRC employed decades of experience in helping displaced populations along with in-depth research into the crisis and needs on the ground to launch programming in 2018. Since then, our teams have been providing lifesaving and life-changing programs to aid vulnerable families, including:
A Women's Story
Emelia (pictured above) is a beneficiary of IRC programs in San Salvador. Emelia was unjustly arrested and jailed by local authorities. Upon her release from prison, she was left without a business or money. The IRC provided humanitarian cash assistance to Emelia, through the local organization Azul Originarios, which helped her open a small sewing shop in her mother’s house to generate income and to support her and her children.
We are grateful to you for joining our efforts to respond to the urgent needs of individuals and families fleeing violence and oppression in Central America. Your gift has been a lifeline to so many who are suffering and struggling to survive.
Growing numbers of people in Central America are being forced to leave their homes. Many are displaced more than once within their own countries or have been deported back home—often into dangerous situations.
In 2020, gang and gender-based violence, poverty, insecurity and climate change were the cause for more than 1.4 million people to be internally displaced in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Gang violence is rampant in the region. Women and girls are specific targets, with violence used to control families with threats, punishments and extortion. Worsening climate change will only compound displacement in the region. Strain on natural resources, basic services and livelihoods drives conflict and fragility: 60% of the 20 countries identified as the most vulnerable to climate change are affected by armed conflict, which only reduces their mitigation ability.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) works in the region across the arc of the crisis. We support an integrated response: responding urgently to both crises rooted in violence, inequality and food insecurity while simultaneously building resilience to climate change.
In El Salvador, the IRC provides emergency assistance to those most at risk—through cash assistance and finding shelter and safety. We also launched CuéntaNos, an interactive service that provides trustworthy, up-to-date information for people affected by crises.
In the U.S. the IRC continues to help meet asylum seekers’ basic needs, facilitate family reunifications, connect people to critical legal services and help them access psychosocial support. We have served thousands of children and families seeking asylum and protection before, during and since the arrival of many immigrants—including asylum-seekers from northern Central America.
Spotlight: Hurricane crisis in Honduras
In early 2021, over two months after Hurricanes Eta devastated parts of Central America, thousands of people were still without permanent shelter, adequate food, employment or access to basic health services in Honduras. Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, the country was unprepared for the hurricane season. Response services were limited, as emergency spending by the government was diverted to address the health crisis, exacerbating protection risks for vulnerable populations.
Working with our local partner, ADASBA, the IRC helped 7,892 high-risk individuals meet their immediate needs or access emergency support services through our CuéntaNos platform—where we received over a thousand requests for women’s services or protection information. We also increased the capacity of local shelter organizations to create safe spaces for children and caregivers.
People are traveling to escape violence and climate disaster in the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. They are in urgent need of aid and protection. The danger does not end when people flee their homes; the path north is fraught with violence similar to what they are leaving behind. Women, girls and the LGTBQ community are specific targets for violence and human trafficking.
“Seeking asylum is legal, and nobody – least of all children – should be punished for doing so,” Jenn Piatt, Senior Director, Refugee Resettlement and Asylum Policy and Advocacy at the IRC
Thank you for being part of the solution and for standing with asylum seekers and refugees—who are trying to get to safety and rebuild their lives.
Your Impact: Helping Protect Asylum Seekers
As the humanitarian crisis in northern Central America – El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – grows, it continues to force thousands of people to flee for safety in neighboring countries and the United States.
Currently, IRC response teams in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are expanding and scaling-up programs to deliver services and humanitarian assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, and returnees.
The IRC’s response includes capacity-building support for local partners to increase and improve the availability and quality of services in northern Central America, in northern and southern Mexico border towns, and in Mexico City. Programing includes prevention and protection for survivors of gender-based violence – primarily women, girls and the LGBTQI+ community; economic recovery and development; mental health and psychosocial support; child protection; cultural orientation; prevention and mitigation of case management; and access to critical information through dynamic information and moderation platforms.
In the U.S., the IRC has served thousands of individuals, children, and families seeking asylum and protection before, during, and after the arrival of many immigrants, including asylum seekers, at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The IRC recently released a report with policy recommendations for the current U.S. administration to address the most urgent drivers of migration from the region, which you can read below.
IRC Policy Recommendations to Help Communities in Crisis
The IRC recommends the following steps to meaningfully address the humanitarian crisis – of which migration is the last resort:
1. Invest in humanitarian assistance in the region
2. Support opportunities for people to find safety in their communities of first refuge
3. Support returnees to reestablish their lives in their countries of origin
4. Build protection capacity and alternative pathways in the region
5. Assist the leading root drivers of migration
Thank you for your support and for continuing to stand with asylum seekers and refugees. Together, we can make a difference and save thousands of lives.
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