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  • Bloggings: Asylee Info Line Bites the Dust by Jason Dzubow

    Bloggings On Political Asylum

    by Jason Dzubow

    Asylee Info Line Bites the Dust

    Until recently, if you were granted asylum in the United States,  you could call the National Asylee Information and Referral Line, a toll-free number, where you could speak to someone about benefits potentially available to you (such as food stamps, Pell Grants, medical assistance, etc.). For people granted asylum through the Asylum Offices, the toll-free number was–and still is–listed on the approval notice.

    However, as of December 28, 2012, the Info Line is kaput. But have no fear–asylees can still learn about benefits (assuming there are benefits after we fall off the fiscal cliff). Visit the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Benefits page on the internet.

    A refugee tries to navigate the ORR website.

    A refugee tries to navigate the ORR website.

    Unfortunately, the ORR website is not so easy to use. Admittedly, I am fairly inept with a computer, and so many people might have an easier time with this than me. But it really does seem confusing.

    For one thing, the site directs the user to a map of the U.S., where she can click on her state to find organizations that assist with benefits. The organizations that receive ORR grant money are listed, as are state coordinators and directors. The problem is, I cannot tell who to contact to ask questions about benefits. If there is an NGO or ORR employee who helps asylees learn about benefits, this should be made more explicit.

    There is a helpful fact sheet available in English and eight other languages, which explains certain benefits, such as the Employment Authorization Document, the Refugee Travel Document, and how asylees can obtain their green cards. But this does not help with medical benefits, food stamps, English language programs, and the like.

    I understand that we live in an era of budget cuts and looming fiscal apocalypse, and I guess that the Info Line was discontinued in order to save money. But I do not see why it should cost much money to make the ORR website simpler to use. In that way, asylees will more easily obtain the services they need, and more quickly become self sufficient. This benefits the asylees, of course, but it will also save money for the government.

    I hope that the Office of Refugee Resettlement plans to make its website more user-friendly. Given that ORR provides grants to implementing agencies, perhaps it could also require the local agencies to follow an easy-to-use model website for providing localized information to asylees. A dedicated, accessible website will go a long way towards replacing the telephone Info Line and towards helping asylees begin to adjust to their new life in the United States.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.


    About The Author

    Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.In December 2011, Washingtonian magazine recognized Dr. Dzubow as one of the best immigration lawyers in the Washington, DC area; in March 2011, he was listed as one of the top 25 legal minds in the country in the area of immigration law. Mr. Dzubow is also an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University in Virginia.


    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.
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