One of our clients was granted asylum earlier this month. He is one of the more anxious clients we’ve worked with. Due to the persecution and past experiences of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in his home country from those in his life and strangers alike, he finds it extremely difficult to trust people and share his story. Multiple times he’s told us information that he previously withheld because he was afraid of disclosing it. It was harmless things like the fact that he entered the country without a visa or driving without a license. Even though these types of things are common amongst immigrants who flee their country due to persecution, our client was afraid that telling us might put him in a risky position of not being able to secure a legal status. Many times, we had to remind him that we were here to help him and we would only gather information for the purpose of assisting him with his claim. Little by little, with patience, we earned his trust.
The symptoms of our client’s trauma are very noticeable in the way he interacts with those around him and he will only do something when he is absolutely sure the risk is worth it. That is why in 2018, he fled to the U.S. and essentially risked everything in order to save his life, as staying in his country would result in definite death. He decided that he would rather risk death in an attempt to flee instead of remaining in a place where he had no chance at survival.
Like many others, our client has had terrifying instances in which rather than receive protection from authority figures who were supposed to make him feel safe, he faced even more rejection, harassment, and abuse by these same figures. There was a time here in the U.S., when the police stopped by his house because they were investigating an incident that happened in the neighborhood where he lives. He instantly froze when the police identified themselves and he pretended not to be home and didn’t open the door. He called us immediately after and said he was afraid the police had come for him. Because this client is one of our many clients who has a paralyzing fear of the police, he has been scared to begin to look for jobs and work without legal documents, as many undocumented people do.
After multiple meetings and much reassurance, we were able to prepare his case efficiently. Our client’s ability to testify at the asylum office and get through the excruciating process of being interviewed for 3 hours, was a huge success in itself. The asylum interview requires a person to recount instances of trauma that they would rather forget. Although they have been through so much and overcome everything that has threatened their life, the asylum process is still one of the most nerve-wracking things a lot of our clients go through, the outcome of which could be devastating.
The results of the cases are received 2 weeks after the interview. Going with our client to pick up his decision was also tough. He has met so much disappointment and desolation throughout his life that he kept imagining the worst outcomes. We talked him through all the possible scenarios and tried to ease his mind. After a tortuous hour of sitting in the waiting room, we were called up to the window where he was read the decision. Fortunately, the outcome was positive.
Finally, after his approval, he will receive his work permit and have the opportunity to work legally. This is significant because when the decision was read to him, he hugged me and was at a loss for words.The most meaningful way he could express his gratitude was to say that he would love nothing more than to take our team out for lunch after he starts to work and gets his first paycheck. Knowing that he will now be able to live his life feeling a lot safer and more at peace reminds us of the reason we do our job: to help people authentically live the lives they deserve.