Special Projects Fund

Project Title

Training Clinicians to Provide Evaluations and Advocacy in Asylum Cases

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Special Projects Fund

Date Awarded

October 1, 2019









The United States provides refuge to asylum seekers who have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of nationality.

Asylum seekers must go through a complex and often hostile process of prescreening, interviews, multiple security checks, and a medical exam. Because asylum seekers often flee their countries with little if any money, frequently do not know English, and have only their own accounts to substantiate their claims of human rights abuses, they often need expert assistance to navigate this process. Medical forensic evaluations by health care providers can frequently make the determinative difference in asylum case outcomes, protecting asylum seekers from deportation back to danger or even death. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has developed a new model for providing asylum seekers with free forensic evaluations, one that makes medical schools the hubs for training and evaluations. In 2019, NYHealth awarded PHR a grant to implement its model in New York State and help clinicians be among the leaders nationwide in advocating for humane immigration policies and practices based on medical investigations.

Under this grant, PHR collaborated with medical schools in New York State to implement its model for providing asylum seekers with free forensic evaluations. PHR has developed partnerships with asylum clinics at 14 medical schools and 1 postdoctoral psychology program specializing in evaluating the mental health effects of trauma. PHR trained and activated clinicians at these schools to conduct clinical evaluations for asylum seekers. PHR also worked to match asylum seekers with its Asylum Network medical evaluators to obtain forensic documentation of the physical and psychological aftereffects of persecution, violence, and human rights violations. PHR also engaged in advocacy efforts with a coalition of partners to advance humane policies based on medicine, such as protecting hospitals and health facilities from enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. PHR briefed policymakers and hold convenings to spread awareness of enforcement threats to patients and the need for safe spaces.