For more than twenty years, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has been at the forefront of protecting the right to live in safety. The Asylum Program’s unique model provides direct service to asylum seekers, advocates for improved conditions in U.S. immigration detention centers, and documents human rights abuses that immigrants suffer in their home countries and in U.S. care.
Volunteer in Texas Detention Centers with Physicians for Human Rights
Thousands of immigrant children have fled their homes in the last year and come to the United States to seek safety. These asylum seekers are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and escaped pervasive gang violence, threats from narco-traffickers, and/or domestic abuse. They are in the United States seeking humanitarian protection, and many meet the qualifications for such protection.
Health professionals, particularly mental health professionals with child-specific expertise, are desperately needed to substantiate the suffering of these children and ensure that some of the most compelling evidence available — psychological sequelae of trauma — is accounted for by immigration authorities. To that effect, Physicians for Human Rights is coordinating a volunteer initiative* at several Texas detention centers to provide evaluations and affidavits for detained immigrant children and their mothers. If you are interested in volunteering with us in Texas, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with a completed application form and “Texas Volunteering” in the subject line. Please check our FAQs, or send us an email, for any questions that you may have.
*You do not need to be a member of the PHR Asylum Network to volunteer.
Hundreds of volunteer health professionals in our Asylum Network have helped thousands of survivors of human rights violations gain asylum in the U.S. by providing them with medical evaluations to prove they were victims of persecution. One of PHR’s evaluators has shared her experience providing evaluations for asylum seekers, in this article for The American Psychological Association.
Examining Asylum Seekers: A Health Professional's Guide to Medical and Psychological Evaluations of Torture
PHR’s manual provides medical professionals with the information necessary to conduct potentially life-saving evaluations. Includes an overview of political asylum law and procedure in the United States, an explanation of the physician's role in verifying signs and symptoms consistent with torture, and a review of components of appropriate written and oral medical testimony.
PHR has written several fact sheets on various aspects of asylum, asylum law, immigration detention, and more. These PDFs made for printing can be found here.
President Obama Announces Immigration Plan (November 21, 2014)
President Barack Obama addressed the nation last night to announce plans to provide temporary relief from deportation for millions of immigrant families.
PHR Submits Statement on Syria’s Refugee Crisis to Senate Committee (January 7, 2014)
The United States should immediately convene a humanitarian summit with Russia and other nations in order to improve humanitarian aid in Syria; take steps to allow more Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States; and provide funding to address their health and other needs.
On Human Rights Day, PHR Highlights Priorities for the Administration (December 10, 2013)
On Human Rights Day, PHR highlighted the need for the U.S. government to address several pressing issues in order to protect fundamental freedoms and promote the United States’ position as a beacon for human rights.
Global Health: Medical Education and Training Help Torture Survivors Build a New Life (Association of American Medical Colleges, September 23, 2013)
Until hours before the Boston woman delivered her baby, not one of her physicians had noticed she had been the victim of genital cutting. The account comes from Jillian M. Tuck, J.D., who manages a national program at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) to provide forensic medical evaluations for people seeking asylum.
More Asylum Network News »
Immigration Reform Cannot End Here (November 25, 2014)
While Obama's announcement is a welcome effort to bring undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows,” advocates remain deeply concerned over how the executive action will affect asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and other vulnerable groups.
Vulnerable and Alone: Children Crossing the Border (July 21, 2014)
Although Maria is just 13-years-old, she already suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression, reports Dr. Carol Kessler, a child psychiatrist and member of the Asylum Network at PHR. Originally from El Salvador, Maria fled to the United States after a gang member attempted to rape her and force her to join his gang.
With recently re-interpreted guidelines for asylum seekers, the United States is at risk of summarily deporting immigrants back to their home countries, where they may face dangerous situations — and sometimes death — in exchange for political expediency.
The Unsung Heroes of Syria (April 16, 2014)
Photos and stories of doctors working in conflict and under other forms of duress are compelling for many reasons. Their bravery and commitment to their patients is admirable, and attacks against those caring for others are unjustifiable in any conflict.
More Asylum Network Posts »
Statement on the Syrian Refugee Crisis (January 2014)
PHR submitted a statement on the Syrian Refugee Crisis to a Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.
Solitary confinement is a form of segregation in which people are held in total or near-total isolation in small cells for 23 hours a day. It is used to control and discipline detainees in federal and state prisons, local jails, and immigration and national security detention facilities. Unlike incarcerated prisoners, immigration and national security detainees are held not as punishment for a crime but as a preventive measure, and will likely never be charged with a crime. For these people, solitary confinement then becomes entirely punitive, with dire consequences for their mental and physical health.
Examining Asylum Seekers (December 2012)
Clinicians can assist asylum seekers and others seeking protection in the United States by providing objective documentation of their physical and psychological injuries and trauma. This documentation becomes evidence that can corroborate the asylum seeker’s narrative of persecution. This manual is a tool for clinicians to use in assisting their evaluation and documentation of asylum seekers' histories. PHR intends to provide medical professionals with the information necessary to conduct these potentially life-saving evaluations by including an overview of political asylum law and procedure in the United States, an explanation of the physician's role in verifying signs and symptoms consistent with torture, and a review of components of appropriate written and oral medical testimony.
Invisible in Isolation (September 2012)
Immigrants in detention facilities around the United States are often subjected to punitive and long-term solitary confinement and denied meaningful avenues of appeal, according to an investigation by PHR and Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC).
More Asylum Network Research »
As a family medicine physician for more than 25 years, Coleen Kivlahan serves the Association of American Medical Colleges as the senior director for health systems innovation. She is an avid volunteer with PHR in the Asylum Program, both as a trainer and medical evaluator, as well as a volunteer medical advisor and lead trainer for the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. Read More »