Payne has been working with Atlanta Asylum Network through Emory University, where he has been helping those seeking asylum in the United States to help make the process easier than if they did it alone.
“Atlanta Asylum specifically works with lawyers in the Atlanta area, who contact the nonprofit to get help for people who are seeking asylum in the U.S. from all over the world,” Payne explained.
When the group is contacted, its first step is to set up an initial interview to find out what specific needs a client has as far as physical, mental and emotional health. But the group also conducts an interview to hear the client’s story and what sort of circumstances they were fleeing.
Payne’s job is to help conduct these interviews and to type up reports for others to use in the process of applying for political asylum.
The asylum process itself is long and difficult, according to Payne. And those who don’t complete it can be deported back to the countries from which they fled.
“They’re all fleeing some type of persecution,” he said. “A lot of time it has to do with everything from ethnicity to government oppression.”
Because many of the clients are victims of sexual abuse, interviewing them is often difficult, he said.
“It’s very hard for these people to recount because its such an emotional experience for them,” he said. “It’s definitely a person by person experience. Some people were able to tell their stories better if they’d had time to cope with it.”
Payne, a junior at Emory, said he plans to complete bachelor’s degrees in religion and philosophy, and because of his experience might go on to pursue a career in law.
“It’s had an impact on me because I’ve been able to see first-hand what people have to go through in the courts system,” he said.