Fear of gangs and drug cartels. Of their home governments. Of their own family members.
Fear of persecution. Of the police. Of being killed.
Fear of deportation, or that someone they care about will be deported.
Fear that no matter where they went in their home country, they would find no safe haven.
Demonstrating a “credible fear” of returning home is the first hurdle that an individual must overcome when seeking asylum in the United States, and the formal demonstration of that credible fear comes in the form of an interview before a federal asylum officer that requires explicit discussion of the traumatic experiences that led them to flee.
Preparing detainees for this all-important credible fear interview was only part of the work undertaken by the faculty, students and alumni who participated in this year’s Immigration Detention Service Project – a partnership between UConn’s School of Law Asylum and Human Rights Clinic and UConn’s School of Social Work that brings teams of attorneys and law students, interpreters, and experts on social work, mental health and trauma inside immigration detention centers for one week a year to assist detainees by preparing and arguing their claims for asylum before federal immigration authorities, and conducting psychological evaluations for use in those legal proceedings.