Interested in hosting an Asylum Seeker but you have questions? Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about hosting.
Who are the Volunteers?
LexRAP volunteers support and assist refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into American society. This assistance would include a support network for shelter, food, clothing, transportation, health care, education (especially English), employment, legal aid, and socialization. Beneficiaries of this assistance will be all people legally seeking or having received permission to live in the U.S., either temporarily or permanently.
Who are Asylum Seekers?
Asylum Seekers are individuals who are in the US under a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". Some have entered illegally (without Visa or entry permit), some were here when the situation in their home country became unsafe or unstable and choose to stay rather than return to a dangerous situation. In a few cases there will be multiple family members. (Note that unaccompanied minors are considered differently)
What is their Legal Status?
Asylum Seekers have no legal status. While some Asylum seekers have been held in detention, most are released with the requirement that they apply for asylum within a year of their arrival. Six months after their hearing (for Asylee status) they can work and get a driver’s license, but there may be another length of time before they are granted Asylee status. At this point they can get the same benefits as refugees, including a social security number and a medical card.
Where do they live?
Many stay with friends or others from their country, some are in homeless shelters. Many are in urgent need of housing/food/support.
Where do they come from, and who are they?
Asylum seekers come from all over the world. While the worldwide political situation is in constant flux, currently the largest numbers come from the middle east (Iraq and Afghanistan) and Africa (Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo). http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/cdc/refugee/arrivals-2011-2015.pdf They may be single men, women with children, or men hoping to bring their families to the US after they are established. The fact that they have gotten themselves to the US shows that most are motivated and relatively world-wise.
Could I take an asylum seeker into my home?
Agencies that support refugees and Asylum seekers prefer that they be given their own apartment, to help instill a sense of independence and continuity. But, given the somewhat desperate situation for some, a spare room in someone’s home may be preferable to remaining homeless and challenged by language difficulties and the inability to work. LexRAP intends to support both hosts and Asylum seekers with ESL, transportation, socialization, and other needs.
If I took an asylum seeker in, how long would they stay?
This will vary according to factors including: how long they have been in the country, when they make their application for Asylee status, and how long it takes to find a job once they are allowed to do so. Generally assume it will be a year or so.
What are the minimum requirements for hosting?
Because asylum seekers have no legal status, there are no legal requirements. From the physical standpoint: their own room is highly desirable. If they have their own bathroom and/or kitchen, that’s a plus. Cooking and shared meals will be worked out in each situation. From the personal standpoint, remember that many of these individuals have been through great loss or trauma – hosts must be warm, helpful, and considerate, without being intrusive. Good listening skills are a plus, but most of all, a sense of consistency for someone who has very little they could count on for some length of time.
If I were willing to host, how would I find someone?
LexRAP has had several conversations with Refugee Immigration Service (RIM). This organization also works with Asylum seekers, and is aware of some number who are in need. RIM only works with Asylum Seekers who have already been vetted by, and established a relationship with a lawyer who will help them through the process of applying for Asylum. In addition, they all have a medical evaluation at Boston Medical Center. RIM can set up a non-binding meeting with an Asylum Seeker, to allow the host to meet the individual before choosing to invite them into their home.
Home, by Warsan Shire (British-Somali poet)
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.
your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.
no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.
it's not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did -
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.
you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.
who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.
no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side
with go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage -
look what they've done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?
the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child's body
in pieces - for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.
i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.
no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don't know what
Do I need to commit to housing someone for a year?
Since asylum seekers are often in great need, whatever length of time you can offer may be very helpful. Expectations should be discussed and agreed to in advance of this commitment.
Can I host a family, or a woman with children?
A legal accessory apartment or rental apartment would be preferable for a family. A woman with one or two children could stay in a home if there is adequate space and all parties agree.
What sorts of support are available?
LExRAP intends to provide support in many ways, including transportation, ESL, help finding a job, and fundraising. Any client who is referred through RIM also has an assigned Case-worker who can answer questions about the process, and help with understanding cultural differences. In rare circumstances, if the asylum Seeker is not living up to certain basic rules, RIM can step in to mediate and potentially have the asylum seeker removed from the home.
What do asylum seekers do during the day, if they cannot work?
It's important to help them find places to go regularly, particularly if none of the hosts is home during the day. This will help with English skills, understanding how to get around, and becoming more familiar with American culture. Volunteer opportunities , whether at a library, soup kitchen, etc, can be good places for them to feel useful and make friends.
What’s it like hosting an Asylum seeker?
While there may be challenges in establishing a new relationship in your house, most hosts report that it is also very rewarding, and in many cases life-long friendships are established. This website, from an organization in Texas, is quite useful in getting a better window into the experience: