Searching for Hope Among the Ruins of Our Asylum System

9/1/20 Asylum

If you feel our asylum laws have been gutted, that our nation’s protections for those fleeing persecution and violence have been systematically dismantled, and that the administration is using the façade of health concerns during a pandemic to make it worse, you are not alone.

You are not alone in your dread of the next case certified to the Attorney General, the next BIA published decision, the next proposed rule, the next executive order, the next policy change…and the ensuing scramble to understand how it impacts your clients who have been waiting in the backlog for months or years. You are not alone in feeling like you just can’t keep up with it all.

You are not alone in the justified outrage at how children and families have been treated by the administration. You are not alone in feeling ashamed by the way this country now treats those seeking protection at our borders.

You are not alone in feeling like every immigration court hearing is like pushing back against an ocean of injustice; there is no due process, no fundamental fairness for asylum seekers anymore.

You are not alone in sometimes, perhaps even often, feeling hopeless.

But, you are not alone. There are thousands of others working on these issues, fighting for what’s right. We are a regiment of seasoned asylum practitioners who know the ins and outs of this complex area of law and how to practice it effectively. We are the newcomers to asylum law who may feel uncertain but who know deep in our souls that fighting these battles is what we are called to do. We are the lawyers who take on pro bono asylum cases even when that requires preparing witnesses for their testimony while simultaneously entertaining our toddlers because our offices are now our dining room tables.

We are in this together, and that is what makes me feel inspired and determined, rather than hopeless.

Serving as chair of the upcoming AILA Virtual Asylum Conference and planning the program is one way that I’ve been reminded that we’re not alone, that we are part of a community of talented, passionate attorneys still fighting to keep asylum alive.  Join me as we lay out the sweeping policy changes to the U.S. asylum system and the ever higher hurdles for asylum seekers and their advocates that the administration has implemented. Join me as we work through where litigation and advocacy efforts to combat the administration’s changes stand. Join me in fighting for asylum seekers in this country (and supporting each other in those efforts!). I promise you that you will leave this virtual conference with a solid understanding of where things stand and what that means for your clients, as well as expert guidance on new strategies to employ at the border and in the immigration courts as we continue to fight for asylum seekers and the soul of our nation.

I know this is a tough fight to keep up. I know you feel tired. But we can lift each other up, help each other succeed, and save our clients’ lives.

by Dree Collopy