About the Network

what is asylum?

Asylum is a form of protection granted to individuals who can demonstrate that they are unable or unwilling to return to their country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of:

· race,

· religion,

· nationality,

· membership in a particular social group,

· or political opinion.

The right to seek asylum was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II. Congress adopted key provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention (including the international definition of a refugee) into U.S. immigration law when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980.

What we do

The Arizona Asylum Network is a network of medical and behavioral health providers that operates at the intersection of asylum law and medicine. We are primarily focused on performing pro bono, forensic medical and psychological evaluations for individuals seeking asylum. We also provide evaluations for humanitarian parole, review medical records, and train and mentor new providers.

How do these evaluations help?

These evaluations can strengthen a survivor’s asylum case by providing corroboration of their story, providing a framework for understanding the survivor’s behavior in a courtroom setting, in addressing inconsistencies in a survivor’s written or verbal testimony, and in increasing the survivor’s credibility. Evidence suggests that the rates of asylum being granted are significantly higher for survivors who receive these evaluations.


Who is an asylum seeker?

An asylum-seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim. Asylum seekers may be of any age, gender, socio-economic status, or nationality.

Where do asylum seekers in the US come from?

At the start of 2019, Venezuelans and Central Americans were among the largest groups of people to apply for asylum in the U.S. To date, the Arizona Asylum Network has worked with asylum seekers from 17 different countries: Brazil, Cameroon, China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, and Uganda.

How many people are granted asylum in the US?

“Asylee” is the term used in the U.S. for people who have been granted asylum. In 2019, around 30,000 individuals were granted asylum. According to U.S. immigration law, a person granted asylum is legally allowed to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation. They qualify to work, travel abroad, and apply for their spouse or children under the age of 21 to join them.

How do people seek asylum at the border?

Asylum seekers who arrive at the U.S. border are typically placed in either immigration court removal proceedings, where they will have a future opportunity to make their case for asylum before an administrative judge, or in expedited removal proceedings, which allow border agents to order an individual deported from the U.S. without a hearing before a judge.

However, under U.S. law, if a person in expedited removal states a fear of return to their home country or intention to apply for asylum, they will be referred for a credible fear interview conducted by a trained asylum officer within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The asylum seeker must prove to the officer that there is a “significant possibility” he or she is eligible for asylum, and must also be subject to a credibility assessment. If the officer makes a positive finding, the asylum seeker is referred to an immigration court where they will have the opportunity to apply for asylum before an immigration judge. If the individual does not meet the credible fear screening standard, he or she can be deported.

Some individuals who are already in the U.S., such as those who may have entered on a tourist visa or other temporary visa, may also apply for asylum. In those circumstances, the process for asylum varies.

The Arizona Asylum Network was established in November 2018 by two residents at Banner University Hospital as a response to the disproportionate nature of the need for these evaluations and the number of clinicians that were trained and available to provide them. In the first two years, 60 providers were trained and the network received evaluation requests for 76 asylum seekers. In July 2020, the International Rescue Committee formally acquired the AAN to help build the network’s capacity and meet the growing need for evaluations.
Amy Rogers Guyton, MD
Samantha Varner, MD