Bearing witness and holding space for survivors of severe human rights abuses has profound impacts on both systems and individuals— including ourselves as evaluators, interpreters, and legal representatives coming together to arrange these evaluations for survivors navigating the U.S. immigration system.
The EAHR model is specifically designed to offer consultation, support, and community to all of our volunteers and partners, in an effort to cultivate resilience and growth within ourselves and the communities we collectively serve. We are committed to taking measures to reduce burnout and secondary traumatic stress, expanding opportunities for our volunteers' professional development and training, and building a program upon supportive interpersonal relationships and evidence-based, trauma-informed best practices.
As a foundational element of this approach, our team assists volunteers through every step of the evaluation process, from screening evaluation requests to pair volunteers with referrals that best match their expertise, to coordinating all logistics for evaluation appointments, to handling communication with legal representatives. We work with our legal partners to closely monitor national and local trends affecting the role of evaluations in immigration cases and collaboratively develop guidance and best practices for evaluations in response to ever-evolving immigration policies.
WHO ARE OUR VOLUNTEER EVALUATORS?
All EAHR medical and mental health evaluators:
Are independently licensed* in a state where the EAHR operates: Arizona or Washington.
Commit to ethically documenting the physical and/or psychological evidence of human rights abuses with compassion and without discriminating against applicants based on gender, sexuality, race, age, immigration status, certain life choices/experiences, disability, ethnicity, or religion.
Engage in continued learning, professional growth, open communication, dialogue, and reciprocal feedback.
Center cultural humility, harm reduction, and professional integrity throughout the evaluation process.
Complete at least one evaluation per year.
*Eligible licenses for medical evaluators include MD, DO, and ARNP. Eligible licenses for mental health evaluators include LICSW, LPC, LMHC, LMFT, LCDC, PhD, PsyD, DO, MD, and PMHNP.
"I am a family physician who has volunteered over the past 10 years to assist asylum seekers by performing the medical evaluations needed to support their asylum applications. Each person has brought unique personal stories and intense experiences from many regions of the world that are under duress. Interviewing them has opened my eyes and developed a much greater depth of understanding of world events and the choices and impacts of societies and governments on individuals... I strongly recommend participating in this work for any professional wanting to contribute in a positive way in making a difference to individuals who so much deserve new hope and opportunity in their lives after experiencing the worst of what can happen." - EAHR Volunteer
WHAT DOES AN EVALUATION ENTAIL?
Medical evaluations include an examination of physical scars and ongoing health complaints that are attributed to the traumas and tortures reported. Medical evaluators are trained to assess the degree of consistency (e.g. "inconsistent", "consistent", "highly consistent", "diagnostic") between the physical evidence and the applicant's claim. EAHR medical evaluators follow established international guidelines for assessing the evidence of torture set forth in the 1999 Istanbul Protocol.
Psychological evaluations typically include a diagnostic mental health assessment and a general evaluation of any past or ongoing mental health impacts associated with or exacerbated by the reported trauma(s). Some evaluations may also address other specialized topics, including the possible presence/absence of malingering, the possible presence/absence of cognitive, developmental, or intellectual disabilities, memory issues, etc.
Medical and psychological evaluations are both submitted as evidence to immigration court or another immigration authority in the form of an expert witness affidavit. Volunteer evaluators always retain the right to decline to write an affidavit or to withdraw their affidavit at any time. Although it is relatively rare, evaluators may be asked to testify in immigration court. They are not legally obligated to so, however, and may decline if they are asked.
Evaluation Time Commitments: The time it takes to complete an evaluation can vary widely, both due to evaluators' unique processes and the complexity of a given case. EAHR Staff take volunteer availability into careful consideration when pairing an evaluator to an evaluation request and provide ongoing support volunteers throughout the affidavit drafting process.
On average, mental health evaluations involve a 2–5-hour clinical assessment interview, plus 8-12 hours to write, edit, and finalize the written affidavit.
On average, medical evaluations involve 1-2 hours of face-to-face time for the evaluation appointment itself, plus 3-4 hours write, edit, and finalize the written affidavit.
"Without question, my experience writing mental health evaluations for immigrants has been the most rewarding aspect of my career... In the process, I have interacted with immigrants from all over the world, people whom I never would have met otherwise. I've been both mortified by hearing stories of the horrific trauma they've endured, and humbled to be in the presence of so many remarkable people, people who've demonstrated extraordinary resilience in the face of so much pain and heartache." - EAHR Volunteer
HOW TO BECOME A VOLUNTEER EVALUATOR
Submit this interest form to receive the password to access to EAHR’s free Training Series materials. This form is only used for improving our future training curricula and outreach, and your information will not be shared.
Complete Module 1: Welcome to the EAHR and Module 2: Introduction to Humanitarian Relief by watching the training videos at your own pace and submitting a short post-module feedback form.
Sign up for Module 3, a live Zoom workshop! Module 3 is offered separately to prospective medical and mental health evaluators and delves into the details of conducting an evaluation interview and writing the affidavit.
For more information about volunteering with EAHR, please firstname.lastname@example.org
"Professionally, it has been exciting to learn a new way to apply the skills I have learned as a mental health clinician, and with a clear benefit to others. I have become more proficient in diagnosing mental health disorders and in explaining the rationale for a diagnosis. I have learned more about 'immigrant mental health' and thinking about mental health more broadly than the Western, white way of thinking about and addressing mental health symptoms. I have learned to write good evaluations and am now beginning to provide them as part of my own private practice as well as working as a volunteer evaluator. The training I have received [from the EAHR Support Team] has been SO valuable."
- EAHR Volunteer