The concept of asylum is an ancient one, arising within many world faith traditions and later becoming part of countries’ legal codes. The Hebrew Bible names six cities of refuge; the New Testament quotes Jesus commending his followers to welcome the stranger, for in so doing, they welcome him. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights guarantees the right to seek asylum from persecution.
Asylum seekers flee persecution and travel to another country to seek safety and request asylum. To receive asylum in the U.S., they must prove their persecution occurred, and that it occurred due to the membership in a protected group, as defined by U.S. and international law. Seeking asylum in the U.S. is an incredibly long, complex, and fraught process, often taking years. Many asylum seekers are detained in jail-like settings during this process. When a person receives asylum in the U.S., they become an asylee and are eligible for a number of federal assistance programs, including those offered by EMM’s resettlement affiliates.