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Home > Public Resources > Trauma Blog > 2019-January > Student Perspectives: What Can Psychologists Do for Asylum-Seekers? Firsthand Experience from the So

Student Perspectives: What Can Psychologists Do for Asylum-Seekers? Firsthand Experience from the South Texas Family Residential Center

January 1, 2019

The mothers and children refer to it as “carcel de bebes” or “baby jail,” described psychologist Kristin Samuelson, Ph.D, about the South Texas Family Residential Center, where she recently volunteered with the Dilley Pro Bono Project. “It’s often the second step of the asylum process, after families were detained in ‘hieleras’ or ‘perraras’ (ice boxes and dog pounds), sometimes separated from their children.” South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, is the largest family detention facility, with 2,400 beds. The majority of families detained are fleeing extreme violence in Central America and are seeking asylum in the United States. “We are currently in a state of asylum crisis,” stated Dr. Samuelson, in reference to the “zero tolerance” policy implemented in the spring referring to all immigrant entrants being placed in custody.
 
Editor's note: ISTSS released a statement on the importance of keeping families together in June 2018.

In May of 2018, we shared firsthand experiences of some of the pro bono work that psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers contribute by conducting psychological evaluations for asylum-seekers. Immigration court data has demonstrated that when psychological and medical evaluations are conducted to support an asylum case, the likelihood of being granted asylum rises considerably. In light of the recent political climate, some trauma psychologists like Dr. Samuelson have had the unique experience of visiting detention centers along the border to conduct further pro bono work. Dr. Samuelson’s travel was funded by Physicians for Human Rights

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