The University of Maine School of Law in Portland and the nonprofit Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) have published an online guide for immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. from persecution, torture, rape and other threats in their home countries.
“Asylum: How to Apply for Asylum in the United States” is the first comprehensive guide of its kind for asylum seekers in Maine who are not represented by lawyers. The guide is intended for individuals who are not in deportation proceedings. Download a copy.
“This manual is not a substitute for the help of an experienced immigration lawyer,” said Maine Law Professor Anna Welch, who runs the law school’s Refugee and Human Rights Clinic. “Unfortunately, thousands of refugees cannot afford a lawyer, and there are not nearly enough lawyers accepting these cases for low or no fee. This guide is intended to help bridge the gap. For unrepresented asylum seekers, the guide provides the tools they need to navigate a daunting and complex system.”
Welch said the guide was a response to a sharp uptick in the refugee population in Southern Maine. ILAP has seen more than a 400 percent increase in asylum seekers since 2009. They are from countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and African nations such as Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. ILAP matches asylum seekers with attorneys willing to take their cases, but the organization is forced to turn away about half of the people seeking assistance. Students at the University of Maine School of Law also represent a limited number of immigrants, free of charge, under Welch’s supervision at the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic.
Contributors from the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic (under the supervision of Welch) include Dominika Blok, Braden Clement, Jennifer Gillies and Katherine Power; and Bowdoin College student Hannah Wurgaft. Contributors from ILAP include Susan Roche, executive director, and Noel Young, asylum coordinator. Claude Rwaganje, executive director of Community Financial Literacy, also provided invaluable input into the creation of the manual. Upcoming editions of the manual will be translated into several languages, beginning with French.