Wendi, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project Member, Leads the Way

By: Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project

Thanks to the Barbara McDowell Foundation’s support of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project’s CASA de Maryland v. Mayorkas lawsuit, more than 150,000 asylum seekers have been able to work legally in the U.S. and obtain Social Security numbers. Wendi, a single mother seeking asylum from Guatemala, played a central role in the CASA lawsuit and is now able to work legally, access a driver’s license, and secure health insurance because of the relief won.

Toward the end of the Trump administration, the government introduced new policies to make it nearly impossible for asylum seekers to work legally in the United States. These new policies were standing in Wendi’s way of getting her work permit. 

With two small children to care for, including an infant born in the United States, Wendi felt anxious. She said, “I’m a single mother. All I was thinking about was how to get resources to support my children. Where could I get money from if I couldn’t work?” Like Wendi, there were thousands of other asylum seekers struggling to support their families who needed to work legally. 

Together, ASAP’s members, including Wendi, decided to sue the federal government to stop the Trump administration and let asylum seekers work. But for the lawsuit to succeed and ASAP to establish associational standing, at least one ASAP member had to be willing to publicly share their story and submit a declaration with the court. Wendi was that member.

“I volunteered because I understood the importance of the lawsuit,” she said. 

Wendi worked with ASAP attorneys to tell her story to the court. She explained how she fled her home country, arrived in the United States, and worked to build a new life. Wendi explained how these new restrictions left her without a path to safety and stability. 

The judge in the CASA v. Mayorkas lawsuit issued a preliminary injunction that kept the Trump administration’s work permit restrictions from applying to members of ASAP and CASA de Maryland, a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit. That decision meant Wendi could get her work permit!

“When I found out, I felt so happy,” said Wendi. “Not just for myself, but for all other parents and immigrants in the same situation. I understand how difficult it is not to be able to work and provide for your family.” 

Today, Wendi has a work permit, a Social Security number, and a job that allows her to support her growing children. Thanks to the support of the Barbara McDowell Foundation, ASAP has worked to ensure over 150,000 asylum seekers received those same opportunities.  

“I feel so happy,” Wendi says. “Because I know that this effort was greater than just me.”

ASAP is now the largest membership organization of asylum seekers in the world, with nearly 350,000 members living in all 50 states and every U.S. territory. ASAP members continue to fight for the rights of asylum seekers through the CASA lawsuit, which continues to protect the rights of many more asylum seekers to work legally in the United States. Learn more at https://www.asylumadvocacy.org/