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.
Christopher Einolf directs the asylum advocacy program of Lutheran Social Services in Washington, D.C. He has represented more than two hundred asylum applicants from more than twenty-five different countries. He studied at Davidson College and Columbia University, and later worked with refugees in the Middle East and in Central America.