TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma is seeing an influx in asylum seekers, as more immigrants cross the border into the United States.
The University of Tulsa runs the Immigrant Resource Network. They told 2 News the influx of immigrants in Tulsa began when President Biden took office. TU’s legal services clinics are visited by people from different parts of the world who say they are just trying to survive.
“We don’t have in our country the option to apply right now for a visa. This is the reason because people is doing this right now,” said Mayleth Arcia, a Venezuelan immigrant who now lives in Tulsa.
Arcia is a med tech for a Tulsa hospital. She arrived in Oklahoma five years ago with her 1-year-old son.
“The situation in my country is really really bad because Maduro is torturing everybody,” she said.
Nicolas Maduro is Venezuela's authoritarian president. Arcia wanted to get away from it all.
“Just because I was suffering in my country from the persecution of the government.”
Her family also suffered. Arcia said they were beaten for protesting, and that her mom has since died because of the stress. The rest of Arcia's family want to follow in her footsteps. They went to the U.S.-Mexico border to get help. Arcia said that is where they were split up and started the asylum process.
“It’s hard to me deal with this situation. I don't know how. That's why I'm here. Probably, this is an option to support them," she said.
Arcia is also pending asylum status. There are many just like her also waiting.
“We do lots of legal consultations and intakes here at the TU legal clinic. Just in the past month and a half, we’ve seen an uptick in recent arrivals to our area who are asylum seekers looking for safety and stability,” Robin Sherman said, director of the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network. “Even though you left your country because you would’ve been killed and if you return to your country, you’re certainly going to be killed. That doesn’t mean you qualify for asylum.”
Sherman and her team provide legal consultations for immigrants, whether they are documented or not. The majority of those they help are afraid and were forced to leave their home countries.
“All of these families that I've encountered have this desire to work, to build up their life here, to start anew,” Sherman said.
To be considered for asylum in the U.S., applicants must be physically present in the U.S. for less than a year, regardless of how they arrived, and show proof they were persecuted or fear of persecution.
The number to the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network is (918) 631-5799. Spanish interpreters are readily available for those experiencing a language barrier.
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