Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2012

Capstone Advisor

Professor John Western

Honors Reader

Professor Marjorie DeVault

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Community-Based Research | Inequality and Stratification | Other Sociology | Politics and Social Change | Sociology


I am interested in the experiences of individuals in Upstate New York throughout the process of seeking asylum. I want to know asylum law influences the daily lives of individuals in relation to their cases and other emotions and activities. To address this, I traveled to Vive, Inc. in Buffalo, a shelter for individuals seeking asylum in either the U.S. or Canada, and conducted nine interviews. I interviewed people seeking asylum, one woman who already obtained asylum in the United States, and the two staff members.

Based on my interviews, I argue that seeking asylum in the United States is a complex political, legal, and social process. Specifically, I argue that conceptions of work that asylum seekers hold are more varied than current scholarship recognizes based on the types of work asylum seekers engage in and the difficulty an asylum seeker has finding employment. I also suggest that there is a range of experiences of asylum seekers with the branches of government depending on their personal journeys to Vive and how far into the legal process they are. I also discuss the ways in which objectification occurs throughout the process based on conversations with the asylum seekers and my observations. Additionally, the amount of knowledge an individual has about the process and their case significantly impacts their outlook on the process, based on people’s varied understandings of asylum and opinions about it. Finally, I argue that there may be some disconnect between critiques that asylum seekers make and those voiced by service providers based on different problems and solutions offered by my interviewees.

In conclusion, it is important that particular attention is paid to the perspectives that individuals seeking asylum have to offer and view them not exclusively through this term, but as people with extremely complex lives. Utilizing these perspectives can help humanize the asylum process in the United States and help organizations better assist individuals throughout.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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