In honor of World Refugee Day, the attorneys at Stilwell & Slatton Immigration would like to write a special post about the refugees and asylum seekers our firm has the privilege of representing. I am often stunned by the amount of people who hold profoundly misguided understandings of refugees and the nature of the United States refugee program. To clarify, below is a brief history and special thanks to all of those who the program has assisted.
The United States asylum/refugee program is a direct result of the 1967 U.N. Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, an international agreement ratified by the United States in 1968. This agreement was the UN’s response to the fact that millions of Jews attempting to flee Nazi-controlled Germany during the Holocaust were denied entry into the surrounding countries.
According to the universally accepted UN definition, a refugee is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.” An asylum seeker is simply a refugee who has somehow, someway reached the safe-haven of another country.
To simplify the UN definition, a refugee/asylum seeker is a person who cannot go home. We reserve this form of immigration relief for the most dire immigration cases, and have continued to honor our commitment to protecting those who fall under the umbrella of the UN’s definition.
However, there is another side of this story that is often neglected in conversations about this particular form of immigration relief. While it’s true that the refugee/asylum program helps a number of individuals fleeing persecution, those same individuals in turn help the United States. Refugees and asylum seekers add skills, expertise, experience, labor, and culture to the United States. They bring stories of pain and persecution, but also stories of resilience, strength, and power.
There is a special kind of wisdom that comes from these stories of survival, one that I have never seen duplicated or matched by any other life experience. These stories add to the diversity of the American population, enlighten us to our own privileges, and help us connect with individuals who have undergone a profoundly different walk of life than our own.
In short, our firm is honored by the refugees and asylum seekers who we have the privilege of representing. If you or a loved one meets the definition of a refugee or asylum seeker, please contact our firm at 202-333-2100 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.