34,000 Members’ Ideas to Change the Asylum Process

Last updated October 5, 2021. This page reflects the top 5 priorities for ASAP’s first 150,000 members. In September 2022, we determined the top 5 priorities for ASAP’s first 350,000 members. You can read those updated results here.

Dear ASAP Members,

When you applied to become an ASAP member, we asked you: What is one thing you would change about the asylum process? Of ASAP’s first 150,000 members, more than 34,000 asylum seekers responded. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your ideas and your stories with us.

Last month, our staff read each of your responses to better understand the issues you care about most. Scroll down to read 5 ways that the U.S. government should change the asylum process, according to 34,617 asylum seekers from 152 countries.

1. The government should speed up processing times for work permits and asylum interviews.

  • “I would like to shorten or eliminate the wait completely for asylum seekers to be able to apply for work authorization. It is an extreme hardship to have to wait years for the asylum process to be completed and not be able to obtain work authorization.” – ASAP member from Guatemala
  • “We’ve been waiting for an interview for 6 years. These 6 years have been so stressful and challenging for us. We feel we are stuck here, and nobody can help or hear us. We cannot go out of the country to see our families, and they cannot come to visit us because of the travel ban. I work with American families and their kids every day, but I feel the government doesn’t care about people like us.” – ASAP member from Iran

2. Work permits should be easier to obtain.

  • “Asylum seekers are suffering. We need to work in order to support our families and help our communities where we live. We are human too, and we want to live.” – ASAP member from Haiti
  • “How is anyone expected to survive — during a pandemic of all things — with no income? It’s like we are being cornered to work illegitimately because it’s either that or homelessness and going hungry. And then we continue to be vilified as if we’re bad because we break the law. It is a vicious cycle that is completely preventable.” – ASAP member from Lebanon
  • “I desperately need my work permit. I’m a mother raising three children alone. Our family can only get limited help from food stipends. I tried to work without a work permit, but my boss paid me very little and bullied me in the workplace. I really hope I can obtain my work permit to improve my current situation.” – ASAP member from China

3. More people should be granted asylum, and it should be easier to get immigration status.

  • “I believe that most people who apply for asylum hoping to get lawful status in the U.S. lose. I would like a process that grants more asylum applications than it denies.” – ASAP member from El Salvador
  • “There should be more flexibility in terms of asylum laws. No one wants to leave their country. They do so because they have no other option.” – ASAP member from Venezuela
  • “There are many people who deserve asylum and cannot obtain it. More asylum applications should be approved in my opinion.” – ASAP member from Cuba

4. The asylum process should be more accessible and transparent.

  • “There should be more information provided in the language that the person speaks, and more orientation about the asylum process at the beginning.” – ASAP member from Honduras
  • “I would like to see a reduction in the complexity of all the rules and procedures, and also to make the whole process user friendly to the asylum seekers who through no fault of their own are seeking safety and refuge.” – ASAP member from Kenya

5. Asylum seekers should be treated more humanely.

  • “I would change the attitude of U.S. immigration towards asylum seekers and immigrants overall. I was taken under ICE custody and detained. The treatment I received in detention was vile and inhumane. ICE officers were prejudiced, cruel, and neglecting of the needs of detainees. I was personally exposed to many violations of my basic human rights including depriving me of food, receiving the wrong medication, and being bullied and harassed.” – ASAP member from Jordan
  • “I believe that the asylum process should be done in a more humane way, more around people. Asylum seekers are not a number, we are human beings going through a multi-factored and very stressful situation.” – ASAP member from Venezuela

We arrived at this list of the top 5 ideas by first reading a sample size of 700 responses. Based on those 700 responses, we identified the 10 most common ideas that we saw. Then, our staff read each of your 34,617 responses and connected each response to one or more of those ideas. In addition to the 5 ideas listed above, other common ideas included that the government should reduce fees in the asylum process, and that the government should give asylum seekers more access to social services and other benefits.

This is the first report in a series of continuing conversations we will have with ASAP’s members about how to understand the issues you care about most. We will share additional results with you in future member updates!

If you want to share your ideas with us but you did not respond to this optional question on your membership application, don’t worry! In the future, we will provide opportunities for you to respond to this information and share additional thoughts. We hope to hear from each and every one of you about how you would change the asylum process. You are the experts on how to improve the asylum process, and your priorities will guide ASAP’s work.

So much is possible when ASAP’s members come together to identify and share the issues that affect each of you. One ASAP member from Ethiopia shared in their response: “Without having a smooth asylum process, people like me will suffer not only in their home country but in the USA as well. So I am fighting for change with my full energy and commitment.” Reading your words has strengthened our team’s commitment to working alongside you to build a better future for all asylum seekers.