With the growing need to serve asylum seekers, the IRC in Elizabeth recently secured new funding to strengthen supports for these families in New Jersey. The key player in this new initiative is Rocio Avila, the IRC in Elizabeth’s new Asylum-Seeking Families Caseworker.
Rocio joins the IRC from a nonprofit in Harlem, where she assisted homeless youth with applying for benefits, securing stable housing, and making mental health referrals through the Streetwork Project. Rocio, who has roots in California, is starting a new chapter in New Jersey with the IRC.
Rocio first learned of the IRC as a political science major in college, and says she was “drawn to this organization due to its mission and the population it serves.” Rocio’s diverse experience working with incarcerated youth, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, homeless youth, and immigrant youth who are homeless prepared her well for her new responsibilities conducting outreach to and supporting asylum-seeking families in New Jersey.
Rocio’s objectives include outreach to both asylum-seeking families and interested parties to build a network of supporters and services for families. In the few weeks since she’s undertaken this work, Rocio has noted “there is unfortunately a gap within New Jersey’s social service field when it comes to asylum seekers' needs,” so connecting with legal service providers, community organizations, and grassroots advocates is crucial to centralizing support for families in need. Rocio’s goals include creating a referral system for each county with asylum friendly resources, assisting the IRC in Elizabeth’s immigration team with creating Know Your Rights trainings and asylum application workshops locally, and reaching as many families as possible.
When asked what she would like supporters to know about asylum seekers in New Jersey, Rocio replied, “They have the same worries, fears, and dreams like any of us do. They worry about finances, making sure their child is in school, their partner's health, and having somewhere safe they can call home. The families and individuals I have met are truly inspiring and resilient. They have taught me so much about not giving up.”
We at the IRC are so excited to see all the good Rocio will do for asylum seekers in New Jersey. If you would like to learn more about Rocio’s work and how you can help, click here. In particular, as the cold weather approaches Rocio has noted a need for winter clothing for children and adults, in addition to baby supplies. Please contact Milagros.Cruz [at] rescue.org if you are interested in donating.