Negotiating uncertainty in the right to asylee status: Re-conceptualizing agency from a space of liminality
Theories of migration that address action tend to dichotomize economic migrants and asylum seekers by differentiating their degree of agency. Despite efforts in the asylum system to privilege asylum seekers' need for protection over that of economic migrants, this dichotomy has incurred negative consequences for asylum seekers with regard to the barriers they experience as they mitigate insecurities. The asylum system regards asylum seekers as actors with privilege and resources, and expects them to present sound cases documenting their rights to asylee status. Asylum seekers are also expected to overcome deterrent measures that aim to identify economic migrants However, the asylum system fails to consider the lack of autonomy of asylum seekers, as they must manage trauma, lack of resources, new host societies, and barriers inherent in the asylum process. I interview individual asylum seekers with diverse experiences securing asylee status. General findings reveal that for certain asylum seekers the process has involved aspects of insecurity, fear, and trauma, while for others, they have been able to utilize available resources to navigate structural barriers. Additionally, the asylum system has been set up to offer security from persecution, however, some asylum seekers have merely exchanged insecurities linked to persecution in the country of origin with uncertainty associated with whether they will or will not attain asylee status. The research provides first hand accounts of asylum seekers negotiating asylum in the U.S., as well as theoretical and practical developments that modify agency to coincide with their liminality.