Asylum, Claims-Making, Insecurity, Social Agency


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. 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 the asylum process. Based on interviews (n=14) with asylum seekers, general findings reveal that inherent barriers within the asylum system position asylum seekers into a context of insecurity that undermines their agency and ability to achieve asylee status. The examination of asylum seekers interacting with the United States asylum system offers a unique vantage point for exploring the relationship between structure and agency. Asylum seekers’ agency is theoretically reconfigured in an inclusive abstract action model that validates their negotiation process in mitigating vulnerability from persecution through the asylum process. However, due to asylum seekers limited agency and the structural barriers involved in attaining asylee status, structure is theorized as minimizing agency aims. I propose a revised concept of agency to account for asylum seekers’ uncertainty in securing asylee status