As a provider of supportive services, legal services, bilingual therapy to Spanish-speaking immigrants in the Greater St. Louis area, St. Francis Community Services staff has a strong understanding of how the trauma immigrants endure through the asylum process and often through immigration itself has long-term effects on immigrants. In addition, SFCS knows that asylum seekers who do not have legal counsel have significantly lower chances of gaining asylum, even if they have credible cases. The most recent data available demonstrate that chances of obtaining asylum are statistically five times higher if the applicant has an attorney. In FY 2017, 90 percent of applicants without an attorney were denied, while almost half of those with representation were successful in receiving asylum.”
During a recent visit to San Antonio, SFCS led a class of Saint Louis University School of Law students, using staff expertise to provide direct aid and legal assistance worked to asylum seekers as they spent their first days in the United States. St. Francis Community Services staff were excited to work with and learn from several organizations similar to our own, connecting immigrants to legal aid and wider social services. Throughout the process, SFCS staff gained a deeper understanding of the ways the asylum process is built for deportation instead of justice, allowing staff and students to connect with and serve their clients better.
Since March 2019, nonprofits and humanitarian aid workers report that 200-300 asylum seekers have been arriving in San Antonio per day. Despite these numbers of asylum-seekers, the city of San Antonio has been providing aid through a recently-created Resource Center. This page includes resources to learn more about the urgency of the humanitarian situation, and ways that you can assist organizations on-the-ground in San Antonio.
Saint Louis University School of Law Student Teresa Flores wrote a blog describing her experience during the trip to San Antonio.
Local writer Tony Messenger covered SFCS’s visit to San Antonio.
This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about the asylum process, detailing some of how difficult seeking asylum is.
American Immigration Lawyers Association’s document gives important information about asylum seekers, such as the arrival of more families seeking protection, and also advocates for immigrants to have access to legal counsel. Importantly, the document also calls for credible fear interviews to “be conducted by asylum officers trained in asylum law and trauma-informed methods for interviewing victims of violence and persecution,” due to the complex nature of recounting stories of trauma.
This comic book is based off of interviews with migrants, another way of understanding the journey individuals face as they arrive to the U.S.
As immigration has become the subject of intense national scrutiny over the past years, the essential humanity and goodness of immigrants is often left out of the conversation. Check out the Immigration Justice Campaign to gain a greater understanding of the essential ways that immigrants impact our local and national community.
Though Missouri is far from the border, the issues facing these organizations are similar to those our clients face or have faced in the past: trauma from migration, struggles to adapt in a new country, and a system which is made to be difficult. Consider donating to the organizations we worked with in San Antonio, in order to help them provide direct aid to asylum-seekers crossing who have just arrived in the United States!
American Gateways is providing significant assistance within the Resource Center, calling family members of asylum seekers to facilitate travel arrangements, providing access to critical legal information, and providing direct aid in the form of shelter, food, and clothing.
This organization is providing hundreds of direct aid kits, with hygiene items and toys if children are present, to individuals and families who are traveling through San Antonio on their way to their destinations in the United States. The Interfaith Welcome Coalition has put together a Wish List of items needed to fill these backpacks, which can be viewed here: Interfaith Welcome Coalition Wish List.
Catholic Charities of San Antonio is paying for the bus tickets of asylum seekers to travel from San Antonio to their destination cities across the United States.
Raices is providing “Know Your Rights” presentations to individuals at the Resource Center, and is also reviewing release paperwork to document errors and provide assistance making corrections.
To Get Involved
Many of these organizations need volunteers to assist them in San Antonio. While most require specific skills, such as Spanish knowledge or legal assistance, some do not.
For those who only speak English, we recommend connecting with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, which needs both English speakers to help with the assembly of backpacks and hygiene bags to distribute. Currently they are assembling hundreds of these to distribute each day. To find out more contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bilingual volunteers are needed for staying overnight at the Travis Park Church, where up to 200 adult and child immigrants are staying each night as they wait for their bus out of San Antonio. To find out more or volunteer, contact: Carolina Berrera, email@example.com.