PUBLISHED:January 06, 2022

Immigrant Rights Clinic launches online guide to extended deadline for filing asylum applications

Heading

The website links to an online form enabling asylum seekers to determine confidentially whether they qualify for benefits under the Mendez Rojas settlement.

Andrea Guzman ’22, Kate Weaver ’23, and Luis Basurto Villneuva ’22 Andrea Guzman ’22, Kate Weaver ’23, and Luis Basurto Villneuva ’22

The Immigrant Rights Clinic has launched a new website with resources tailored to help immigrants in the Carolinas take advantage of an extended deadline to apply to remain in the United States.

Andrea Guzman ’22, Kate Weaver ’23, and Luis Basurto Villaneuva ’22, Duke Law students enrolled in the clinic, developed the materials and the website.

U.S. law requires asylum applications to be filed within one year of entry into the country, with some limited exceptions. However, a settlement in Mendez Rojas v. Wolf – in which the federal government was found to have failed to provide adequate notice of the deadline – gives some asylum seekers until April 22, 2022, to file their first application or refile or update an application that was filed after the one-year period.

“The demand for legal services for low-income asylum-seekers in the Carolinas is staggering,” said Shane Ellison, supervising Attorney in the clinic.  “A recent report measuring rates of representation in deportation proceedings placed North and South Carolina at the bottom of the list. The tool and resources that these students have developed will make an incredible impact on the lives of many.”  

Added Weaver: “The alarmingly low levels of legal representation for immigrants in the Charlotte immigration court drove us to create a resource that empowered asylum seekers to understand and then take their next steps towards protection in the United States.”

The website, which can be accessed in both English and Spanish at AsylumHelpCarolinas.org or AyudaAsiloCarolinas.org respectively, links to an online form enabling asylum seekers to determine if they are members of the class set out in the Mendez Rojas settlement. All answers to the questions are confidential, and the form does not collect names or email addresses.

“Navigating the legal system is difficult. For asylum seekers who do not have lawyers the challenges and stakes are especially high,” said Basurto Villaneuva. “They have to meet strict deadlines, navigate multiple agencies, and many need to make their case before an administrative judge all while coping with the trauma of their experiences and adjusting to life in a new country.”

Visitors to the website who are eligible for more time to submit their asylum application can access instructional videos and templates for documents to file with the court or the asylum office. All videos and materials are available in both English and Spanish. 

The website also provides resources to help immigrants find the status of their immigration case, change their address in the Charlotte immigration court, and move their immigration case to the Charlotte immigration court if they have moved to North or South Carolina.

“The resources are made to be as accessible as possible, integrating visual cues and using simplified language,” said Basurto Villanueva. “As a law school student, working on this project provided me with a better understanding of the asylum process, but more importantly, it provided a space to practice synthesizing legal information into its most understandable form.”

Added Weaver: “Our process of distilling the complex Mendez Rojas settlement to create the most accessible resource possible helped me find my voice as a counselor and advocate in a way that I had not experienced before. I look forward to taking this skill into practice with me as I continue to work on behalf of immigrants and refugees.”  

Clinical Professor Kate Evans, the clinic’s director, praised the students’ initiative and creativity. “The clinic students leading this project were incredible,” she said. “They designed and implemented an integrated set of resources that have the potential to secure the rights of tens of thousands of asylum seekers and other immigrants who are facing deportation and cannot afford an attorney.”

 

Andrew Park is associate dean for communications, marketing, and events at Duke Law School. Reach him at andrew.park@law.duke.edu.