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New York calls for $70 million to provide legal services to migrants


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Recently, a rally was held in the city with the participation of lawyers, members of the city council and the city controller. They insist that $70 million should be allocated from the city budget for legal services for asylum seekers. Now the budget for this provides only 5 million.

New York is now experiencing what is perhaps the most acute immigrant crisis in its history. Over the past year, the metropolis has received about 60 migrants, who were brought by bus from the Mexican border.

Recently, the situation has worsened even more - after the repeal of the so-called Section 42, which allowed not to let migrants into the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of asylum seekers arriving in New York daily is already in the hundreds. The city provides all of them with housing: at first, migrants were accommodated in hotels; when places ran out there, they began to organize shelters in school gyms, as a result of which New York Mayor Eric Adams has been heavily criticized by the parents of the students. The mayor himself has repeatedly spoken about a serious crisis and turned to the federal authorities for help, but so far there has been no result.

Photo: Lydia Kalinina

All money goes to housing.

Most of the money allocated by the city to support migrants is spent on housing. Now, according to the Accounts Chamber "Record of Asylum Seekers", more than 99% of all funds go to pay for shelters and hotels, and less than 1% - for other services, including legal assistance.

Volunteer organizations mainly help migrants fill out documents and deal with bureaucracy. One of them - Win - has become during this time the largest provider of a variety of services for newly arrived families. But its president and CEO, Christine S. Quinn, is already saying they can't handle the situation.

"Every family seeking asylum wants one thing - the opportunity to work legally so they can move out of shelters and into their own apartments. But the only way to get a work permit is to apply for asylum, which is a difficult process even under the best of circumstances.she says. - When we realized that the city did not have an organized system to help families apply for asylum before the one year deadline, we began to provide this service. But the reality is that we do not have time to accept everyone, and soon tens of thousands of asylum seekers will miss this window and find themselves outside the law.

On the subject: Where to Find a Free Immigration Lawyer in New York

In her opinion, the city authorities should help people not only physically, but also legally, because if this is not done, people will simply be illegal immigrants in the country. In addition, without the necessary documents, they will never be able to leave the shelters and rent their own housing.

5 million instead of 70

On Thursday, June 1, immigrant advocates, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, and City Councilman Shahan Hanif gathered outside Manhattan's City Hall to hold a rally demanding $70 million in the city's budget for legal services for asylum seekers. During the year, the city is unable to find companies willing to provide legal services to immigrants. According to politicians, this is because they budgeted too little - $ 5 million.

"It's been over a year since the first asylum seekers arrived in New York, and we still haven't signed a contract for legal services. It is clear that $5 million is not enough to meet the needs of the nearly 50 asylum seekers in our care, which is why no supplier accepted this inadequate contract. It is clear that we need about $000 million.”said Shahana Hanif, chairman of the immigration committee, city council member.

Photo: Lydia Kalinina

On May 9, Lander and Hanif sent a letter to the mayor's office urging them to allocate the necessary amount in the budget. According to them, the city unreasonably underestimates the importance of legal assistance for immigrants, because only after they officially apply for asylum, they will be able to receive all the necessary documents in order to work, rent a house, and live a full life. So far, despite the fact that the first wave of migrants arrived in the city almost a year ago, very few of them have begun the immigration process. According to the city comptroller Brad Lander, if they are not helped with paperwork now, these people may simply remain illegal immigrants in the future.

"Getting work permits and legal status will eventually start a new life for people seeking asylum here in New York. They will be able to get a job or open their own business, get a permanent place of residence. It seems to me that in order to live up to its title of city of refuge, New York should commit itself to increasing funding for legal services for migrants.”, - he said.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. Photo: Lidia Kalinina

Authorities seek help from the federal government

New York authorities have long been trying to enter into a dialogue with the federal government. Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hokul have repeatedly asked Washington to expedite the issuance of work permits for new migrants. The city hopes to receive additional funding from the federal government for immigration programs. The controller of the city shared the budget figures with journalists. According to him, next year, about $3 billion is planned to be spent from the New York city budget on asylum seekers.

"We understand that this is a significant amount of money. Even though New York's budget is $107 billion, tax receipts are up about 5,8% this year. We still really need money from the federal government.” Brad Lander said.

According to him, in addition to federal assistance, the city is also waiting for funding from the state. Now, of the three billion money allocated to help new migrants, the city receives only half a billion from the state treasury. The Comptroller predicts that if the authorities go along with the city, New York will be able to receive $ 1,2 billion next year from the state and federal governments.

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