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Swapna Reddy
Source: Ashoka

What’s ahead for asylum seekers in the U.S.

This article originally appeared on Medium

Social entrepreneur and lawyer Swapna Reddy co-founded Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) in 2015. Back then, the asylum journey was deeply flawed and costly, Swapna recalls — but the past four years have pushed it to a near-breaking point. An Ashoka Fellow, Reddy is making sure asylum seekers are seen as the strong, resilient changemakers they are - in their own lives and in American society.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), her organization of asylum seekers working to fix the asylum journey has grown rapidly in the past 2 months and is looking towards the future.

Now, as we look to 2021 and beyond, what can be repaired? Redesigned? What’s ahead for asylum seekers in the U.S.? And how will global challenges — such as extreme climate events — invite and require new mindsets and a new kind of forecasting?

Ashoka’s Manmeet Mehta spoke with Swapna, an Ashoka Fellow, as part of Welcome Change, a new series with leading social entrepreneurs on what works, what’s next, and why they’re hopeful. Here are a few highlights.

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Ashoka insight

Swapna sees a future where the United States welcomes individuals who come to our borders fleeing violence. She believes in working alongside asylum seekers to make that vision a reality.

Swapna founded the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) in May 2015 to respond to the mass detention and deportation of asylum-seeking families at the Mexico-U.S. border. ASAP is the first organization to provide asylum seekers with free immigration legal assistance no matter where they are located in the United States.

ASAP’s model has three components: ASAP prevents crises through community education and online community support; ASAP responds to crisis through rapid-response, emergency legal aid; and ASAP eliminates crises through nationwide systemic reform. To date, ASAP has served more than 4,000 asylum seekers in over 40 states.

"We need an updated narrative that reflects the actual experiences and contributions of asylum seekers: stories that show resiliency, problem-solving, mutuality, and optimism in the face of extremely difficult life circumstances," she said.