REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT PROGRAM
The Refugee and Asylum Project recruits and trains volunteer attorneys, legal assistants, and students to help individuals who have fled religious, ethnic, or political persecution in their countries of origin. Unless these clients succeed in gaining political asylum, they may be forced to return to countries where they may face detention, torture, or death. Most of the Projects volunteers and clients reside in Minnesota and the surrounding states.
Lack of experience with asylum law is not an obstacle to helping these individuals get asylum. Lawyers inexperienced in asylum law receive training and are paired with experienced immigration practitioners. The volunteer attorney meets with the client and is primarily responsible for all aspects of the case, including: 1) interviewing the client; 2) preparing the application for asylum and supporting documents; and 3) accompanying the client to the asylum interview or representing the client at the deportation hearing. The consulting attorney is available to answer questions, discuss strategy, and review documents before submission. The Project provides sample briefs and documentation on conditions in the country at issue. In addition, law student volunteers are often available to provide research on country conditions and immigration law.
Recent changes in immigration law and cutbacks in funding have caused the Projects caseload to triple in the past few years. The need for volunteers is especially urgent now. We currently have a backlog of cases and the waiting-list is growing. To date, we have been able to assign all urgent cases to volunteers, but our capacity is full. We urgently need more volunteer attorneys! Taking a pro bono asylum case is a great way to help someone in need while learning about the politics, history, and culture of another country.
The Refugee and Asylum Project also serves as a resource to the local, national and international community on refugee law and policy. Volunteers participate in research, fact- finding, legal and policy analysis, and oral and written advocacy on behalf of refugees in the United States and around the world.