Seeking Refuge: Partnering with Freedom House Detroit

The last few years have been kind of rough for all of us politically. So in early 2018, when our co-founders met some individuals from Freedom House Detroit, an organization that provides supportive services for refugees, it sparked an idea of how Rebel Nell could respond to the current climate in the U.S. and, in addition, help more women.

Breakin’ Down the Facts

To understand the severity of immigration issues, let’s break down the actual meaning of asylum and what that looks like in the real world. Asylum is a protected immigration status that allows an individual to stay in the country while going through the U.S. legal processes. Not all refugees are currently seeking asylum, nor do their cases meet the very steep legal criteria to do so. To be considered an asylum seeker, there needs to be proof of immediate persecution by the home country’s government (or similar entity) due to one’s race, nationality, political affiliations or social group. While many individuals are fleeing their countries due to difficult circumstances, many do not meet the definition of persecution. Most often, refugees seeking asylum are outspoken activists in their home countries and cannot safely relocate, so they go into hiding until they can receive protection and safe passage from another country. One can seek asylum through obtaining a visa from the U.S. Embassy or by paying off authorities to help assist them in fleeing the country.

Freedom House Serves

Coming to the United States with few resources and little knowledge, refugees are often targeted for deportation or exploitation. Freedom House steps in by providing both shelter and legal assistance for the individuals that show up on their doorstep. Most clients have found Freedom House through alumni, the internet or even a stranger at the airport. In addition to shelter and legal aid, Freedom House provides free comprehensive services like medical and mental care, English as a Second Language classes and job readiness training. While teaching clients about U.S. business, housing and financial systems, Freedom House ensures that their residents have all the tools they need to be self-sufficient in their new country. Their residents can stay for up to 24 months while seeking asylum; unfortunately, that often barely scratches the surface of the long process to come.


After experiencing a long journey, at times dangerous and treacherous, it still takes multiple years for someone to assimilate into a new life. Once in the U.S. and (relatively) safe, a Freedom House resident begins their months-long application process for asylum. This includes collecting the documents and testimonies required to prove their case. Once they’ve submitted their application, it takes another two years or more to have their case settled. To add insult to injury, these individuals cannot access any federal benefits or services until they have their asylum status. That sounds reasonable in theory, but we don’t allow these individuals to work in the country until six months after they have submitted their application for asylum (and as we mentioned, that’s a process that a couple months in length. So where does that really leave this vulnerable population? With Rebel Nell, of course!

Rebel Nell Responds to Refugees in Need

Once a Freedom House resident is cleared to work, they can start their journey as a Creative Designer with us! Through their employment, these women can access benefits that they currently cannot access through the Federal Government. This actually allows these Designers to transition successfully into their new country. Many of these individuals are eager to work and ready to face the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, like Freedom House, we don’t have the ability to have these individuals stay with us during the entire asylum seeking process, but we’re honored to play a part in helping these women start a new life.

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