Few of the over 70,000 migrants who arrived in New York City in the last few months have formally applied for asylum. A top official in Mayor Adams’ administration, Anne Williams-Isom, Adams’ deputy mayor for health and human services, was not able to provide exact numbers. She did suggest that many asylum-seekers are not completing the forms due to confusion and fear over the process.
Asylum is a particular form of protection, allowing individuals to remain in the United States instead of being deported. Application for asylum is time sensitive. In the United States, applicants seeking asylum are not permitted to work for six months after they apply. There is a one-year window for an individual to apply for asylum, after which they are ineligible.
"It looks like very few people have applied for asylum, so we need to make sure that ... we’re getting people the information that they need. So we’re going to be working on that. We’re doing some door-knocking and working with our legal providers,” Williams-Isom said during a City Hall press briefing Wednesday afternoon. "Probably people have come here — they’ve been nervous, they didn’t know where to get connected to services, didn’t know who to give their paperwork to.”
Pro-immigration advocates point to the city providing a limited number of lawyers provided by the city to help the migrants through an often complex legal process.
“We’ve been advocating since Day 1 for more legal resources,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “We have been dealing with continuously asking the city to put out more legal resources for people.”
On May 9, Councilwoman Shahana Hanif and City Comptroller Brad Lander sent a letter to Mayor Adams, saying that the city “must do more to actively assist asylum seekers to submit their applications for asylum [and] to submit their applications for work authorization."
“The city must act quickly to scale up its outreach efforts and expand its capacity to provide legal services to the hundreds of migrant families arriving each day with an additional investment of at least $70 million in immigration legal services,” they continued.
“As of now, the city spent more than 99% of its resources on emergency shelter services and less than 1% on programs like pro se clinics and pro bono legal representation that would open pathways to gainful employment and permanent housing,” Lander stated. He is planning to hold a rally Thursday morning to highlight the issue.
He added, “While the right to seek asylum is a national obligation under international law, the city budget can and should provide at least $70 million to legal service providers in order to aid asylum seekers through our complex immigration system.”