A Message from the Staff: Rachel Van Tyle on Asylum

Depending on your life experience and profession the word "asylum" can connote many different meanings.  Maybe it makes you think of a mental hospital, a la One Floo Over the Cuckoo’s Nest;  me – it makes me think of the wonder and greatness that a country can offer to an immigrant.  Webster’s dictionary defines asylum as “protection given by a government to someone who has left another country in order to escape being harmed.”  To me, this is an overly simplified definition.  But then again, I’m a lawyer.

Asylum is complicated, challenging, engaging, frustrating, and heart breaking.  Asylum can be a person’s only hope to escape the sure-death that they will face if they are forced to return home.  But as terrifying as it is for the client, it is one of my favorite parts of my job.  At the Clinic, asylum work is an opportunity for me to be creative, to think on my feet.  And it is incredibly rewarding.  When that approval comes and the client takes their first sigh of relief knowing that they are safe, there is no greater reward.

To those who know me, they know I LOVE my job.  I get up every day excited about the prospect of helping people.  But the problem is that the Clinic is one of the only organizations in central Indiana that will do asylum work for free.  It can be incredibly time intensive and requires, at a minimum, one trip to Chicago.  To me, that makes the work we do here at the Clinic all the more important.  My hope is that through the work I do, I can share the love of Christ with each and every client.

I’ll leave you with a client quote (and a contact email, in case you are interested in assisting on an asylum in the future), “By your ministry, people can see God’s love and can know that there are Christians that really care for them.”

That, my friends, is what it is all about.

Rachel Van Tyle
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Justice Program
rvantyle@nclegalclinic.org