Cover image for The mercy factory : refugees and the American asylum system
The mercy factory : refugees and the American asylum system
Einolf, Christopher J., 1969-
Publication Information:
Chicago : I.R. Dee, [2001]

Physical Description:
xix, 263 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF4836.Z9 E37 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Each year thousands of people come to the United States seeking protection more than 62,000 applied for asylum in 1998 alone. America is a country of immigrants with a proud tradition of welcoming refugees from persecution. Yet most Americans object to high levels of illegal immigration, and many feel that poor immigrants are a burden to the society. These conflicting views are played out in a complex system of asylum adjudication that has developed over the last twenty years. The Mercy Factory is the first book to examine that system. It does so by telling the stories of five refugees, following them from their experience of persecution in their home countries to their arrival in the United States and their progress through the barriers of the American immigration legal system. The stories are both tragic and inspiring, but they also illuminate the workings of the asylum system and the dilemmas often faced by immigration officials and judges who must make life or death decisions in limited time, with limited information at hand. Throughout his absorbing narrative, Mr. Einolf explains the basic law of asylum in layman's terms, examines the history of the asylum adjudication system, and suggests proposals for reform."

Author Notes

Christopher J. Einolf is an accredited legal representative for asylum applicants and has acted behalf of more than three hundred refugees from over thirty-five different countries. He now works for the Pennsylvania Immigrant Resource Center a director of advocacy for children in INS detention

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Offering refugees asylum became a formal part of U.S. law more than 20 years ago, with enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980. That statute set up the administrative structure of asylum officers, immigration judges, the Bureau of Immigration Appeals--"the mercy factory" --that determines which applicants are granted asylum. Einolf, who directs the asylum advocacy program of Lutheran Social Services in Washington, D.C., has represented hundreds of asylum applicants. The U.S., he declares in his preface, "has created one of the world's most effective asylum adjudication systems," but this system is "at risk" thanks to recent changes urged by the anti-immigration lobby. Einolf displays the strengths and weaknesses of the current system by describing the experiences of five of his clients: a Cameroonian couple and women from the Congo and Ethiopia. He spotlights legislative and regulatory changes since 1996 that increase the obstacles asylum seekers face, and he spells out needed changes. Appendixes list organizations that help asylum seekers and rank asylum-approval rates by country of origin. --Mary Carroll

Choice Review

Each year approximately 40,000 people arrive in the US illegally or with temporary visas, then seek to convince immigration officials that they should be allowed to reside in the US because they have well-founded fears of persecution. The criteria for proving a well-founded fear of persecution have become stricter since 1996, and this book examines the new legal travails of asylum seekers. Only about one-quarter of these asylum seekers are successful; the others are deported. Einolf, who describes himself as "an accredited legal representative," tells the stories of five of his African clients. Individual chapters cover persecution in their homelands, their arrival in the US, and various phases of their legal battles. In places the details of the cases become trivial (e.g., "the judge ... opened the proceedings by starting the courtroom tape recorder"). Nonetheless, this first-person account is riveting and cinematic in its ability to convey the drama of the asylum process. General readers will find the introduction and conclusion particularly useful in providing an overview of the legal aspects of this subject. All levels/collections. J. Hein University of Wisconsin--Eau Claire

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xv
1 Asylum in the United Statesp. 3
2 Persecutionp. 22
3 Escapep. 48
4 Americap. 56
5 The Interviewp. 76
6 Courtp. 101
7 Safetyp. 135
8 The Mercy Factoryp. 146
9 Prison and Expedited Removalp. 171
10 The Future of Asylump. 203
Appendix 1 Organizations That Assist Asylum Seekersp. 242
Appendix 2 Approval Rates for Asylum Applications, by Countryp. 244
Bibliographyp. 248
Indexp. 253