The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) International will hold its annual conference and advocacy days from June 23 to 26, 2021. The theme of this year's conference is "The Asylum Crisis in the USA." This is a great opportunity to learn about the challenges facing the U.S. asylum system--and to do something about it. All events (including advocacy) will be held online and are free. In support of the conference and its goals, from today until June 30, all proceeds from my new book, The Asylumist: How to Seek Asylum in the United States and Keep Your Sanity, will go to TASSC International!

TASSC is an amazing organization consisting of torture survivors and asylum seekers who help and support each other. Speakers at the event will include torture survivors, advocates, mental health professionals, and lawyers (including yours truly--on June 23rd at 11:30 AM).

The first day of the conference features a number of important topics, including a discussion about the asylum system's failures and challenges, survivor resilience, and advocating for a humane asylum system. There will also be a training for people participating in the advocacy days (on June 24 and 25).

After the conference, we will (virtually) head for the Hill to educate Congress about needed changes to the asylum system. While advocates and lawyers can present powerful arguments in support of asylum reform, nothing is more effective than when torture survivors and asylum seekers themselves speak to their representatives. These personal stories are always very moving and memorable, and can truly influence decisionmakers.

One big issue for TASSC (and for many asylum seekers) is the affirmative asylum backlog, which currently stands at over 386,000 cases (and because one case may include several family members, there are more than 600,000 individuals in the backlog). Some of these people have been waiting for four, five or six years--or more--for their interview or decision. In many cases, they are separated from immediate family members, who may be living in unsafe conditions in the home country. The long waits, loneliness, and uncertainty are very difficult to bear, and it is not uncommon to hear torture survivors say that the asylum process is, in some ways, worse than the persecution they faced back home. Besides the affirmative asylum backlog, many other people are waiting for decisions in their Immigration Court cases. Currently, there are about 1.3 million noncitizens in Immigration Court, and many of them are asylum seekers. These applicants have also been waiting years for their decisions, separated from family and living in great uncertainty. Educating law makers and securing more resources is crucial to reducing the backlogs at the Asylum Office and in Immigration Court, and in achieving stability and healing for asylum seekers and their families.

After the meetings on Capitol Hill, events wrap up over the weekend with a vigil against torture and a community of healing ceremony for survivors.

TASSC was founded by a torture survivor in 1998 and has been serving torture survivors ever since. The non-profit provides coordinated care to address all aspects of a survivor’s wellbeing--from community and social connection, to legal, psychological, and medical support. TASSC is also committed to advocating for torture survivors on Capitol Hill and in the community. Survivors themselves--including TASSC's truth speakers--lead these efforts, and to date, the agency has met with dozens of Congressional offices and given numerous presentations at schools and faith-based institutions.

You can register for the conference and advocacy days here. Again, all this is online and free. Even if you can't join us for these events, you can learn more about volunteering or seeking help from TASSC at their website. And did I mention that when you buy my book between now and June 30, all profits will go towards supporting this worthy organization? So what are you waiting for? Go here to buy the book! Thank you, and I hope to see you at the conference.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: