Community Asylum Seekers Project (CASP) is based in Brattleboro, VT and was founded in 2016. The mission of the Community Asylum Seekers Project is to cultivate a supportive community for those seeking asylum in the U.S., while offering basic needs and accompanying them on their journey towards building a life in this country.
So far, 25 asylum seekers have been connected with housing, lawyers, and community support as they work to build a home in the U.S.
CASP reports that their biggest challenge is having to navigate the immigration system that continuously works to disempower asylum seekers by asking them to relive their trauma and prove that they are powerless; meaning that they could not prevent the harm they faced by relocating within their own country, and that their government either cannot or would not protect them. An asylum seeker must demonstrate their own powerlessness and lack of agency to the immigration court.
In addition to the challenge mentioned, it usually takes a minimum of 5 years to get a court date. During those 5 years CASP works with asylum seekers to empower them, encourage agency and bodily autonomy while understanding that people will continue to be in a vulnerable state (and arguably must be in one) to receive asylum.
There are many state and federal networks of support that asylum seekers are not eligible for but are still necessary for survival, like health care, housing vouchers, sometimes state IDs depending on the type or quality of their documents. CASP also, as always, faces the challenge of generating funding. We rely on individual donors and making sure we are raising enough money to support each family.
CASP celebrates and is proud of the small wins. Learning that the 8 year old who could only read 14 words/min in English in August can now read 85 words/min in November. Or, when an asylum seeker who has faced gendered violence feels comfortable when the maintenance guy comes in and she doesn’t feel like she needs to leave or call the staff. Or, when volunteers tell us how much they have learned from asylum seekers and stand up for people at doctor’s appointments, or learn about requesting interpretation, etc.