Students Recognized for Work with Immigrants and Asylum Seekers

Members of the student-run Capital District Asylum Collaborative (CDAC). Photo used with permission

Life in the United States is the dream of many around the world—particularly for those who have suffered persecution or injustice in their countries of origin. Since 2015, Albany Medical College student volunteers have dedicated their time to assisting asylum seekers with critical health care services. Earlier this month, students were recognized for their efforts with The Legal Project’s Champion Award, which honors “those who have made a tremendous difference in supporting the work of The Legal Project and promoting the goal of access to justice for all.” Students were honored for facilitating free medical and psychological evaluations through the student-run Capital District Asylum Collaborative (CDAC).

The Legal Project, an Albany-based nonprofit that helps people access protections of the law, refers clients to the CDAC and the students work as scribes to help asylum seekers with the evaluations and affidavits required to obtain legal status. While the service provides a critical need to the Legal Project’s clients that was otherwise not available, the students say they, too, benefit.

“We are witness to [our refugee clients’] testimony[ies] of trauma, abuse and horrors from which they have escaped temporarily. It is a privilege to bear some of the burden and use our training to better their chances of attaining asylum or other protective status,” said Ifeoluwa Adelugba ’23, who spoke on behalf of CDAC in a recorded acceptance speech the day of the awards.

As part of the College’s service learning program, the CDAC also enriches students’ understanding of the social determinants of health.

“Our volunteer scribes have become skilled in cross-cultural communication and improved their understanding of the legal immigration process and how it impacts refugees,” Adelugba said. “This translates to improved sociocultural awareness with patients on the floors as well as knowledge of community resources to empower these patients.”

Adelugba and her CDAC peers credit Albany Med’s Departments of Psychiatry and Family and Community Medicine, as well as Albany Medical College administration for their support and encouragement. “We look forward to building our capacity to serve more clients and maximize their chances for successful immigration cases.”