Immigrant detention & asylum application assistance

Are you on either side of the United States Mexico border and do you need help? Are you looking for shelter, legal support, food, and help with claiming asylum? Are you in immigrant detention? Here are some online resources and information about organizations that may help or advise you.

Centro de detención fronterizo de EE. UU. con migrantes en una zona enjaulada
Photo: US Customs and Border Protection

April 2020 – There have been changes and closures in the US immigration system because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Asylum seekers arriving at borders are being turned back. They are being returned to Mexico or to their home countries. This includes unaccompanied minors. Read asylum seeker updates.

Finding help on both sides of the border

If you are traveling through Central America and intend to cross the United States/Mexico border, you need to know that you risk being placed in immigrant detention if you don’t have the documentation that allows you entry to the country. This is done not only in the USA, but in Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Here are two organizations that work on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

Border Angels

On the Border Angels website, you will find emergency contact information for groups in Mexico that offer help to migrants in distress. Some offer food, water, medical help, and shelter. The organization Grupos Beta, listed on this page, has many locations throughout Mexico.

Catholic Community Services Hospitality Center for Migrant Women and Children

The Catholic Services Hospitality Center gives travelers a safe place to rest, rehydrate, eat, and care for their children.  They provide a change of clothes, hygiene items, and a chance to wash up. Volunteers greet the travelers and help them contact family members and arrange bus transportation.  Women and children receive travel bags filled with essential items before they leave. Those who are unable to depart the day they are released may spend the night at the home of a trusted volunteer or at Casa Alitas, a small home in Tucson staffed by volunteers and Catholic Community Services.

Are you an immigrant woman or girl in detention who needs protection from abuse? Do you know someone who might need help?

These organizations can help you:

  • RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline offers free, confidential, 24/7 support at 800.656.4673 and online at You can also use RAINN’s list of local service providers to find the help nearest to you.
  • Tahirih Justice Center provides free and confidential legal and social services to immigrant women and girls.

Arriving at the United States/Mexico border

If you are planning to claim asylum at the United States/Mexico border or are already there, there are resources to guide you to safety and to navigate the United States immigration system.

Estamos Unidos: Proyecto de Asilo/Asylum project

Estamos Unidos (“We Are United”) is a legal representation network on the Mexican border at Ciudad Juarez. Volunteers from across the country provide legal guidance and other services. The project is run by Al Otro Lado and CLINIC.

Florence Immigrant Rights Project 

The Florence Immigrant Rights Project has collected documents to help you defend your case. Materials include documents that are general resources, for after you are released from detention, fighting your deportation in front of an immigration judge, and appealing your case.

What information do I need when I apply for asylum?

There are many pieces of documentation you can use to support your asylum case. This is a  presentation about the documents you can use in your asylum case and how to use them.

In order to get asylum in the USA, it helps your case if you have evidence to prove you were persecuted or abused, and that your government did not protect you. The more evidence you have, the better chance you have to win your asylum case to be able to stay in the United States.

Be sure to always tell the truth, otherwise you could immediately have your case denied. You also need to be very specific about the details. It is important to spend time remembering exactly what happened, on the exact date. If you make a mistake, the government may think you are lying.

Here are types of evidence that you can use to support your asylum case:

  • Identity documents (i.e. your passport, birth certificate, student identification card, household registry, national identity card, or political party membership card.)
  • Identity documents of family members who traveled to the United States with you
  • Marriage certificate and birth certificates for children
  • Academic records (i.e. school records, certificates, and diplomas)
  • Medical records from hospitalization or treatment due to mistreatment in home country
  • Jail or court records
  • Any draft asylum applications or affidavits that you may have created
  • Any document that has been filed with any part of the United States government
  • Any other documents that you think might be important

Know your rights!

Know Your Rights manuals for detained immigrants in various languages

These manuals provide basic information in English, Spanish. French, Arabic and other languages to give immigrants an understanding of their rights under US law during immigration proceedings or if they are arrested and detained by the Department of Homeland Security.

Know Your Rights LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

This document is for people who are afraid to return to their home countries because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and/or due to their HIV status. You may have a defense against deportation if you fear you will be harmed or tortured if you are deported to your home country. This manual is a guide and resource. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal counsel. You should attempt to obtain a lawyer.

You can read this information in Spanish, French, and Arabic.

Resources for pro-se asylum seekers who are in removal proceedings

If there has been an order issued for your removal or deportation, you still have a chance for applying for asylum, even if you do not have a lawyer. Here are some guidelines for filing for asylum without a lawyer.

Do you qualify for a T-visa?

The T visa is a visa that is issued to victims of human trafficking, both children and adults. There are many people who are smuggled into the USA illegally and against their will on false claims for employment and other benefits. If this happened to you, you can apply for this type of visa.

Do you qualify for a U-visa?

Were you a victim of a crime that happened in the United States? Did you help law enforcement? Were you hurt because of the crime? A U-Visa lets victims of certain crimes, who meet certain requirements, stay in the United States.

Anti Fraud Warning

Read this information to protect yourself from people who are not real lawyers! There are people who will pretend to help you so they can keep your money. Learn how to recognize them and protect yourself! The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) made information to protect you from fraud. You can read and download the information in English. Or you can read and download the information in Spanish.

The information on this page comes from CLINIC, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.