Guest Blog: Our Experience Hosting an Asylum Seeker

Since early 2019, Pride Foundation has been a proud member of the  LGBTQ+ Immigrant & Refugee Coalition, a network of individuals and organizations in the Seattle area unified in our goal to create a robust network of support for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.

As part of this work, we are looking for individuals or families living in the Seattle area who can open their home and provide a room to an asylum seeker while they wait for their case to be processed.

We hope you enjoy this story from recent hosts, Jim and Charlotte Beyer:

We will always remember the evening M* arrived at our home, along with two other asylum seekers and the hard-working attorney from Entre Hermanos. Their relief was contagious. We made hearty chili and corn bread, and as the attorney translated from Spanish to English and English to Spanish there was laughter and the joy was palpable. The room glowed.

Only three weeks before, we had received an email appeal to host a young woman from South America seeking asylum who had been in detention for six months. We weren’t sure we were ready to take that step. But over the previous year, we had been learning about the harsh conditions in the detention center in Tacoma, the poor diet, the delay in the judicial process that kept detainees locked up for months pushing into years for some.

We knew M. would be held in detention until her day in court unless someone stepped forward, and said we would host her.

We discussed whether we could commit to becoming a host. We had the room—our children were grown and gone. We did not know how much it would cost, but we figured we could buy the necessities needed and learn about what community resources might be available to help. We didn’t speak the language but we had lived abroad and knew some of the challenges we would face and felt we could handle them.

And we wondered, at our age of seventy-two, were we flexible enough to deal with all the unknowns that a commitment like this involved?

In the end, we knew we could not turn away from this issue any longer. We offered to host the young woman.

And now, after five months with us, she has a work permit, a job and an apartment, and is on the next stage of her journey as she continues to await her day in court to see if she will be granted asylum or sent back to the dangers she fled.

It is clear to us, after connecting with other hosts, that every situation is different. M. is tremendously independent, resourceful, and courageous in the face of all the challenges that have come her way. We know other asylees have needed more time and more support as they worked through some of their trauma in order to be able to focus on the challenges they faced outside detention. But all the hosts we connected with were often reminded by those with experience in these matters that just providing a safe space is a tremendous help.

We have not fully digested this experience by any means, but there is no question that we are glad we did it. We hope M. will be granted asylum and make a new life for herself. We hope to maintain a connection with her whatever happens and wherever she may go. We have all been changed by this experience and we are richer for it.

Becoming an asylee host isn’t an easy decision, but it is one of the best things we have done in our lives.

*For reasons of security and personal privacy, Jim and Charlotte have asked we refer to the asylee that was placed with them as M.

Everyday more LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are presenting themselves at our border seeking safety and protection. Many are held in immigration detention centers across the country, sometimes for months, to await a court date. Detention centers—inhumane for all—are particularly dangerous for LGBTQ+ individuals. Having a host who is willing to provide housing and support makes it more likely that an asylum seeker can be released on bond to fight their asylum case with greater access to legal support, medical care, and community.

We are looking for hosts! We are looking for individuals or families living in the Seattle area who can open their home and provide a room to an asylum seeker while they wait for their case to be processed. Hosts provide support, daily necessities, and important connections to their local community, while also respecting the self-determination of the individual they are sponsoring. 

If you’re interested in learning more about hosting an asylum seeker, please take a moment to fill out the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network host form

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