Asylum is a relief given to immigrants who fear returning to their home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution by the government or a group the government cannot control on the basis of race, membership in a social group, political opinion, religion, or nationality.
Since 2000, Las Americas has assisted asylum seekers from over 60 countries, including Algeria, Dominican Republic, Bosnia, El Salvador, India, Burundi, Georgia, Mexico, and Colombia. Wars and repressive governments continue to create a flood of refugees to our shores. Las Americas continues to provide legal services for these refugees, works to prevent unjust deportations, and challenges Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies regarding the treatment of refugees and other detained persons in the area.
Karl, 25, was a student activist in Cameroun and led protests against government abuses. In return he was put in prison, an experience he recounts as follows. “A cell that is supposed to take a maximum of 20 people is packed with 80 inmates. It’s a very painful memory to recount. Inmates are starved, forced to drink their own urine, stripped of their clothes, denied access to toilet and other sanitation facilities, beaten with machetes or electric cables, forced to sleep on a cold floor in a water filled cell, and tied in chains,” he said. Karl was freed thanks to the intervention of international NGOs but had to go into hiding for fear of continued persecution and deaths.
Karl was selected to attend a university conference in San Diego but had to sneak out of Cameroun in a friend’s military car in the dead of night to escape the government’s watch. With the help of Las Americas, Karl won his asylum case. “I will always remember Las Americas as a place where my life started,” he said. Las Americas staff “made me understand that representing an asylum seeker is not about winning or losing. It is about demonstrating to someone that there are people around the world who care about you and are willing to sacrifice time to make a difference.”