In the setting of increased global conflict and human rights abuse leading to health inequity, the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights (WCCHR) champions evidence-based advocacy for asylum seekers at both individual and population levels. We are a group of volunteer healthcare providers and trainees who conduct forensic medical evaluations for persecuted individuals. Our organization serves as a platform for developing clinical leaders and researchers at the intersection of health and human rights.
We seek to maintain our position as a leader in health and human rights by upholding the standard of performing forensic evaluations, continuously challenging current practices, and expanding knowledge to optimize our service and commitment to asylum seekers in the United States. As such, we aim to generate new scholarship and expertise in understanding the asylum-seeking population, discerning drivers of migration in the setting of increasing and changing global conflict, and determining the health needs of victims of human rights abuse. We strive to be a catalyst for a broader human rights movement by cultivating a generation of healthcare providers that recognizes the needs of vulnerable populations.
Our service is provided to victims of torture from countries across the globe who are seeking asylum on multiple grounds, including persecution due to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and political affiliation. WCCHR volunteer clinicians meet with clients to conduct forensic medical evaluations, and to prepare a medical affidavit in support of a client’s asylum application. This affidavit is a legal document that serves as evidence in court, and often plays an essential role in establishing an applicant's credibility. Asylum seekers with legal representation and a forensic medical affidavit prepared by trained clinicians are more than twice as likely to be granted asylum than those without. Applicants who receive asylum can reside lawfully in the United States without fear of deportation and can eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
The WCCHR is committed to educating medical students and clinicians about human rights violations, and the ways in which we can utilize the unique skills of the medical profession to defend victims of torture. The clinic holds annual training sessions and multiple educational seminars yearly that teach our volunteers how to evaluate victims of torture, identify the physical and psychological sequelae of abuse, and write medical affidavits documenting their findings. Trained medical students observe every evaluation conducted by WCCHR clinician volunteers and assist the overseeing clinician in writing the medical affidavit. Participating in evaluations as a medical student is one of the highlights of volunteering with our organization.
Since our founding in 2010, the WCCHR’s mission has broadened to include research as a third pillar alongside service and education. A fifth of all global immigrants, including asylum seekers, currently reside in the United States; this number only continues to grow, emphasizing the need for increased knowledge and awareness of this diverse group. We hope to expand the limited body of research concerning this vulnerable population in a systematic, sensitive, and ethically-sound manner. The WCCHR makes clear to every client that declination or participation in research will have zero bearing on their forensic evaluation, medical affidavit, and immigration proceedings.