Wendi, a single mother seeking asylum from Guatemala, played a central role in ASAP’s CASA v. Mayorkas lawsuit that led to over 150,000 asylum seekers being able to work legally and get a Social Security number. Having a work permit in the United States unlocks access to driver’s licenses, health insurance, and other critical resources.
When Wendi arrived in the United States in 2019, she said “a friend told me to join one of ASAP’s online communities that help asylum seekers.” On the friend’s advice, Wendi joined ASAP and began connecting with other asylum-seeking mothers online. Wendi said, “I saw other women share their stories and give advice, and I learned from ASAP about all the policies that were changing for asylum seekers.”
In the summer of 2020, the Trump administration 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 began to wonder how she could possibly focus on her asylum case when she had to figure out how to pay for rent, groceries, and basic necessities. Like Wendi, there were thousands of other asylum seekers struggling to support their families who needed to work legally.
Wendi was one of 5,000 ASAP members at the time, who decided together to sue the federal government and let asylum seekers work. But for the lawsuit to succeed, an ASAP member had 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 and explain how these new restrictions left her without a path to safety and stability. The whole time, she said, she was worried about her family: “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?”
In September 2020, the judge in the CASA v. Mayorkas lawsuit decided that the Trump administration’s policies could move forward for everyone except members of ASAP or CASA de Maryland, one of ASAP’s partner organizations on 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.”
Once the word got out that asylum seekers could get their work permits if they joined ASAP, thousands of asylum seekers reached out saying they wanted to join. ASAP’s members decided that ASAP should admit as many asylum seekers as possible, even if it meant fewer resources for the original 5,000 members.
Today, Wendi has a work permit, a Social Security number, and a job that allows her to support her growing children. ASAP’s community has grown, since the lawsuit, to almost 350,000 asylum seekers, living in all 50 states, from nearly every country in the world. And thanks to the work Wendi and thousands of ASAP members did to make the CASA v. Mayorkas lawsuit successful, over 150,000 asylum seekers have been able to work legally and support their families.
“I feel so happy,” Wendi says. “Because I know that this effort was greater than just me.”