UC Davis School of Medicine volunteers aid asylum seekers

A Northern California refugee rescue group and volunteers with UC Davis School of Medicine are teaming up to help people seeking asylum. Jessie DeHaven, an immigration legal fellow at the International Rescue Committee in Northern California, says that over the last year, they’ve seen an influx of requests for assistance from refugees from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Eritrea.The USA for UNHCR — a nonprofit refugee aid organization — reports 100 million individuals worldwide were forcibly displaced as of May 2022. That is up from 89.3 million by the end of 2021. Of that 89.3 million, about 4.4 million are Venezuelans seeking asylum at the southwestern US border trying to cross, but the process of avoiding deportation is yearslong and complicated.”These are many times asylum seekers who have come to the border fleeing dangerous conditions in their own country and they are asking the United States for protection, and they’re placed into proceedings where they need to prove that they’ve suffered persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they’re a member of a particular social group,” DeHaven said.Asylum seekers must go through the Deportation Defense Program to stay in the US, and through her fellowship, DeHaven said she’s able to work with many clients.One of those clients is a Stanislaus County resident who chose to not be identified. She spoke to KCRA 3 in detail about her alleged kidnapping and torture at the hands of a cartel in her home state of Michoacán, México.”They raised my shirt and they started cutting me with something. I’m not sure what. They told me that they were going to cut my baby out of my stomach and they were going to make me eat it. I knew that they were going to kill me because I started bleeding,” she recalled. Fearing for her life, the woman was forced to leave her home state and head to the Tijuana-San Diego border hoping to receive asylum in the US After being denied entry, she made it across the border, but after giving birth, she was deported with her three children.They walked and made it to a church where two organizations helped her case. After about a year, they made contact with DeHaven who took the case and received assistance from another group of volunteers at the UC Davis School of Medicine. The UC Davis Human Rights Initiative (HRI), a newly created student-led organization provides medical and psychological evaluations of asylum seekers in Sacramento. HRI was co-founded by Sharad Jain, the associate dean of students and internal medicine doctor, and Farah Shaheen , an assistant clinical professor of internal medicine.Both Jain and Shaheen said they got the idea to create this organization after working at the Sacramento County clinic, learning that those patients were more likely to receive asylum if they had a medical evaluation that was attached to their affidavit.The other members of HRI are two residents and six medical students who received a grant to help pay for forensic equipment and transportation for six clients.”The more money that we spend on each case, the fewer cases we can take on, so the fact that we’re getting these services donated from the UC Davis medical professionals and students has really been helpful,” said DeHaven, whose client benefitted from thi s organization. This case was the first win for the 10 volunteers. UC Davis doctors and students were expert witnesses and the victim was granted asylum at the Sacramento federal courthouse last July.

A Northern California refugee rescue group and volunteers with UC Davis School of Medicine are teaming up to help people seeking asylum.

Jessie DeHaven, an immigration legal fellow at the International Rescue Committee in Northern California, says that over the last year, they’ve seen an influx of requests for assistance from refugees from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Eritrea.

The USA for UNHCR — a nonprofit refugee aid organization — reports 100 million individuals worldwide were forcibly displaced as of May 2022. That is up from 89.3 million by the end of 2021.

Of that 89.3 million, about 4.4 million are Venezuelans seeking asylum at the southwestern US border trying to cross, but the process of avoiding deportation is yearslong and complicated.

“These are many times asylum seekers who have come to the border fleeing dangerous conditions in their own country and they are asking the United States for protection, and they’re placed into proceedings where they need to prove that they’ve suffered persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they’re a member of a particular social group,” DeHaven said.

Asylum seekers must go through the Deportation Defense Program to stay in the US, and through her fellowship, DeHaven said she’s able to work with many clients.

One of those clients is a Stanislaus County resident who chose not to be identified. She spoke to KCRA 3 in detail about her alleged kidnapping and torture at the hands of a cartel in her home state of Michoacán, México.

“They raised my shirt and they started cutting me with something. I’m not sure what. They told me that they were going to cut my baby out of my stomach and they were going to make me eat it. I knew that they were going to kill me because I started bleeding,” she recalled.

Fearing for her life, the woman was forced to leave her home state and head to the Tijuana-San Diego border hoping to receive asylum in the US After being denied entry, she made it across the border, but after giving birth, she was deported with her three children.

They walked and made it to a church where two organizations helped her case. After about a year, they made contact with DeHaven who took the case and received assistance from another group of volunteers at the UC Davis School of Medicine. The UC Davis Human Rights Initiative (HRI), a newly created student-led organization, provides medical and psychological evaluations of asylum seekers in Sacramento.

HRI was co-founded by Sharad Jain, the associate dean of students and internal medicine doctor, and Farah Shaheen, an assistant clinical professor of internal medicine.

Both Jain and Shaheen said they got the idea to create this organization after working at the Sacramento County clinic, learning that those patients were more likely to receive asylum if they had a medical evaluation that was attached to their affidavit.

The other members of HRI are two residents and six medical students who received a grant to help pay for forensic equipment and transportation for six clients.

“The more money that we spend on each case, the fewer cases we can take on, so the fact that we’re getting these services donated from the UC Davis medical professionals and students has really been helpful,” said DeHaven, whose client benefitted from this organization.

This case was the first win for the 10 volunteers. UC Davis doctors and students were expert witnesses and the victim was granted asylum at the Sacramento federal courthouse last July.

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