People make difficult choices every day to protect their loved ones. Despite fleeing violence and persecution in Central America, asylum seekers in search of safety are not being welcomed in the United States. Instead, many are forced to wait for months in Mexico because of Trump administration policies, and others are being detained and later released without food, water, shelter or guidance on the asylum process.

The International Rescue Committee and its partners are providing emergency support to asylum seeking families in the U.S. Here’s a closer look at our work:

Central American family at an IRC-run shelter in Phoenix

In Phoenix, Arizona, the IRC and its local partners are providing food, water, basic medical assistance, legal counseling, clothing and emergency shelter for hundreds of people each week who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

IRC staff member at an IRC-run shelter for asylum seeking families from Central America

Once released from government detention centers, families are dropped off at a day center run by the IRC and its partner St. Vincent De Paul, a local charity.

"They are hungry and exhausted. These families have the legal right to seek asylum — but have limited to no guidance regarding the asylum process," said IRC director of immigration Olga Byrne.

IRC staff member with Central American family seeking asylum in the U.S.

At the day center, the IRC and its partners help asylum seekers get in touch with family members in the U.S. IRC community engagement coordinator Stanford Prescott records their basic information and U.S. contacts in order to facilitate purchasing bus and plane tickets.

Asylum seeking families at an IRC-run shelter in Phoenix receive hot meals and water

The IRC and its partners also provide families with hot meals, snacks and water. Local medical professionals visit the day center to treat mild colds and provide consultation to vulnerable people such as pregnant women. The IRC takes asylum seekers with urgent medical needs to a local emergency room. There has been an outpouring of generosity from local Arizonans, including donated food, clothing, backpacks and toys.

Central American children at an IRC-run shelter for asylum seeking families

Many children have experienced emotional and psychological trauma from growing up amid violence and fleeing their homes. Detention centers are poorly equipped to handle the young children who are forced to stay there. The IRC provides a safe space at the day center where they can draw, play games and enjoy other activities.

Central American families seeking asylum in the U.S.

Families who need to stay longer than 24 hours while they wait to receive their bus or plane tickets are shuttled to an overnight shelter by the IRC.

Overnight shelter for asylum seeking families in Phoenix

At the overnight shelter, families are given a bed, warm blankets and snacks. The IRC then provides transportation from the shelter to bus stations and the airport.

IRC staff member helping Central Americans find their buses

Prescott explains to a group of asylum seekers from Central America how to transfer buses as they continue their journey to reunite with family.

Asylum seeking family from Central America

People arriving at the U.S. border have the right to request asylum without being criminalized, turned back, or separated from their children. They are fleeing their homes and often seeking safety elsewhere within their countries, moving multiple times to no avail. Many embark on the journey to the U.S. because they are absolutely desperate and must escape, despite the dangers of the journey. Learn more about our work.