Harnessing technology and lawyers to defend asylum
The Trump Administration has launched an unrelenting assault on people fleeing persecution. Systemic obstacles work to isolate refugees on their journey to safety.
Mass Incarceration of refugees.
- Increased detention of asylum-seeking adults
- Expansion of family detention
Cruel policies to deter migration.
- Implementation of family separation policies;
- Family separation
- Remain in Mexico
No due process for migrants.
- Highly politicized immigration court system
- Rocket Dockets
Innovation Law Lab is countering these assaults through a ground-breaking approach using SuperMassive collaborative representation to develop and implement limited-lawyer, client-facing interventions that defend asylum rights, protect access to the asylum system for persons fleeing persecution, and facilitate fair decisions on the merits. We use technology to organize lawyers and activists to educate, assist and support people through the asylum process. We litigate against illegal conduct by the government and private prisons that undermine asylum and leave people in vulnerable and dangerous situations.
Brenda and her daughter arrived in Atlanta in April, 2018. They’d been detained in Dilley, Texas where they’d been oriented to the credible fear process by the Dilley Pro Bono Project. They arrived in Atlanta with a short list of immigration non-profits and began calling around as they’d been told to, searching for an anchor – some way to understand her next steps.
In Atlanta, as in most jurisdictions, the majority of asylum seekers find that the waitlists for legal services are immense – it isn’t possible to provide full scope representation at a scale that meets the need. In 2019, 86% of the 6,935 people ordered removed had no legal representation. People call for help and are told to call back later – there aren’t enough attorneys.
In December 2018, Brenda doesn’t need full scope representation so much as she needs to know the next step in her case. She’s already explained to the judge that she’ll be killed if she goes back to Honduras. In response, the judge instructed Brenda to submit her asylum application in March, at her next hearing. The form is in English, it’s twelve pages long, and Brenda doesn’t understand the questions. If she doesn’t submit it at her next hearing, she’ll lose her case before she’s afforded the opportunity to tell her story.
In January, 2019, Brenda attended the very first Atlanta Asylum Workshop. She received an orientation to asylum law and the asylum process, began filling out her application with the help of a volunteer, and in February she returned to the second workshop to complete her application. By the time she appeared before the judge again, she had her application in hand and knew what to expect. She didn’t have an attorney yet, but she would be afforded her day in court.
Since then, staffed by volunteers and facilitated by Law Lab technology, Innovation Law Lab has run a monthly asylum workshop, ensuring that asylum seekers are empowered to navigate the procedural intricacies that form an obstacle between persons fleeing persecution and their right to a day in court.