Roles involved with sponsoring an asylum-seeker

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.

Parole Sponsor – Able to receive an asylum-seeker in your 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.

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.

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.

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.