Frequently used terms

Tens of thousands are fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. But we can help them.

Asylum seeker – a person from another country who has entered the asylum process in the USA. The process begins at the border or within the USA, when a migrant declares a well-founded fear of violence or persecution in their home country due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. If this initial ‘credible fear’ testimony is provisionally accepted, the person is general put into detention. This can last for a few days (especially for parents with children) to many months. 

Parole – This is the term used for when an asylum seeker is released from detention to live in the USA after they have established that they have a credible fear of violence or death if they were to return to their own country; an asylum seeker is more likely to be released from detention on parole if there is a US citizen who is willing to vouch for them and support them once they are freed from detention

Parole Sponsor – A US citize who has agreed to receive an asylum-seeker in their home for a period of six months up to three years. Asylum-seekers are not able to get a work permit until six months from the day that they submit their asylum application. The parole sponsor will also provide a parole package for submittal to Homeland Security, this includes copies of paystubs and proof of legal status. In addition, the parole sponsor will provide commissary funds while the asylum-seeker is in detention and be ready to answer their phone when the asylum-seeker calls. Once released from detention, the parole sponsor will book travel and secure any car seats that might necessary. The asylum-seeker and their children will need both emotional and financial support. This includes offering a safe home to live in, meals and basic necessities, and physical and mental healthcare. Asylum-seekers will need transportation to their immigration appointments, to the local consulate or embassy of their country of birth to obtain a current identification. Finally, the parole sponsor will be involved with helping the asylum-seeker make connections with local groups that can assist with community integration, such as learning English, learning to use public transportation, learning how the local school system works, etc.

This is the highest commitment level and most needed role: American citizens and legal permanent residents to offer housing for a time period for at least 6 months. This is no small task, and requires a high level of commitment. That said, nothing is truer in sponsorship than the saying, ‘It takes a village.’ Community support is extremely important for the asylum-seeker to successfully navigate a complicated system. Asylum-seekers are not eligible for federal services like refugees are; therefore, they must rely on privately-funded services. Sponsors are expected to locate such services locally and build their support system for them and the asylum-seeker as well as fundraise for any additional services needed.

Note: If all you can do is provide a home, that’s enough. Other sponsors can step in to take care of the day-to-day needs.

Parole package – the materials that will help a sponsor make a case for an asylum seeker’s release on parole. The package includes a letter that details the sponsor’s intent and capacity to support the person; proof of the sponsor’s identity, citizenship, residency, and income; and letters from others in the sponsor’s community who also agree to support the asylum seeker (with translation, transportation, orientation to the city, and so on)

Temporary Sponsor – Able to host an asylum-seeker for a few weeks, provide parole package for submittal to Homeland Security (including copies of paystubs and proof of legal status), and provide a safe home along with all meals and basic necessities to the asylum-seeker for a few weeks. This is usually needed until a parole/long term sponsor is found or when a parole sponsor is going on vacation, travelling to work or has a family emergency.

Community Support Sponsor – Prepare and send letters of support to be included in the main parole package, welcome the asylum-seeker into the community. Community support sponsors also help recently released asylum-seekers navigate all of the complex systems that the seeker needs to work in (schools, immigration court, ICE/ISAP, finding attorneys, housing, et.) They accompany the asylum-seeker to ICE check-ins and take the asylum-seeker out for tours of the city, lunch, and entertainment. They assist with childcare needs and take the asylum-seeker shopping for basic needs of fun things like make-up and toys. They take the asylum-seeker to the local healthcare clinic and help cover the cost. They take the asylum-seeker to the religious institution of the asylum-seeker’s choice, if any, and teach the asylum-seeker English.

Professional services sponsor – Provide free services. All areas of expertise needed: lawyers, doctors, nurse practitioners, OBGYN, health clinics, pediatricians, psychologists, family therapists, dentists, dental hygienists, translators, hairdressers, manicurists, ESL teachers, art teachers, dance teachers, etc.

Commissary sponsor – Donate funds to a detainee’s commissary for phone time, person hygiene products, food, and other necessities. If detained asylum-seekers do not have funds in their commissary, it is very difficult for us to be able to communicate with them and report back to the community.

Phone call sponsor – Be available to answer an asylum-seeker’s phone calls when they are detained, including collect calls. A phone call sponsor provides emotional support over the phone, and passes messages to and from the parole sponsor. Detainees are allowed very little phone time; it is very important that this sponsor answer most calls and have pen and paper ready for messages. An ability to speak Spanish and/or access to a translator is very helpful. All calls are recorded by the detention center.

Sanctuary – a house of worship may invoke this when an immigrant has been issued an order of deportation to allow the immigrant to stay on their premises to avoid deportation. This is different from the asylum process we’re discussing here, because sponsoring an asylum seeker means that the asylum seeker is lawfully in the USA as the asylum claim is processed and is allowed to move around without risking arrest.

Collective support – We are stronger together. An entire community can come together to support an asylum-seeker. It takes committed individuals to join forces, brainstorm and fundraise towards the end goal.

Thinking about being a sponsor? Consider these questions:

Have questions about money? Check out this sample budget: