In Salt Lake City, though the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has traditionally served refugees through robust services, our work extends beyond resettlement for refugees. In fact, the over 20 different programs and services focus on serving the broader immigrant community, including refugees, asylees, asylum-seekers, and new Americans. The IRC in Salt Lake City continues to tailor programming to meet the needs of asylees and asylum-seekers in Utah for those who have just arrived and for those who have been in the Beehive State for years waiting on adjudication.
Asylum is a legally protected status granted to foreign nationals already in the United States who meet the definition of a “refugee”. They are unable or unwilling to return to their home country and cannot obtain protection in that country oftentimes due to war, violence, persecution, political unrest or other major concerns which could put them and their families at extreme risk. In the U.S., asylum-seekers can legally apply for asylum, their case slowly working through the federal adjudication process. Once they are issued a final grant of asylum as well as throughout their eligibility period, these individuals may be eligible for specific types of assistance as they work to integrate into their new community. Additionally, they receive work authorization, may apply for unrestricted Social Security cards and are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States.
In Utah, many asylees arrive from Venezuela and have created places for community and connection in Salt Lake City. Some examples of amazing Venezuelan places of community in Utah include Utahzolanos, a news source run by reporters Patricia and Fabian, and Delicius, a truly delicious bakery owned and operated by chefs Ahimara and Eliceo, just to name a few.
Families and individuals who seek asylum in the U.S. often experience unique and unexpected challenges when working to settle into their new home. According to Nolan La Barge, employment coordinator at the IRC in Salt Lake City, what may seem familiar—applying for a job, seeking a car loan, or navigating new systems—is not usually the case. Staff at the IRC, including economic empowerment and immigration, support asylee families as they navigate life in Utah.
“We want to be ‘una fuenta de informacion fidedigna,’” or ‘a reliable source of information,’ Nolan shares. “The advantage [the IRC] has is that we have a highly knowledgeable staff,” he says. “We’re not the new kids on the block.” Since the ’90s, the IRC in Salt Lake City has developed and expanded sustainable programs while also meeting needs identified by the communities served. The IRC’s wide variety of resources can respond to a wide variety of requests.
The IRC’s approach focuses on listening to the needs raised by those we serve: asylees and refugees know themselves, their families and their plans for their future better than anyone. Ready with this knowledge, the IRC strives to be an ally and support to asylees on the path they set. Sometimes this means using our resources to help them find the best job that recognizes their skills or it may entail petitioning to bring family members to the country. For people who may still be seeking aslyum, our teams may provide consultations or refer an immigration attorney.
As Nolan expressed, the IRC seeks to build a supportive environment that houses a variety of resources under one roof, acting as a conductor on a platform. If you would like to learn more about the services our office provides for asylees and asylum-seekers, check out our new Asylee & Asylum-Seeker Resource Hub or email us at SaltLakeCity [at] Rescue.org.