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Council Member Hanif Rally for $70M for Asylum Seeker Legal Services in City Budget

The current $5 million isn’t enough to fill the needs of the 50,000 asylum seekers in our care: Council Member Hanif

New York: Immigrant advocates joined City Comptroller Brad Lander and Council Member Shahana Hanif demanding at least $70 million for asylum seeker legal assistance in the City budget as negotiations head into their final month.

On May 9, 2023, Lander and Hanif sent a letter to the administration calling for this focused investment, stating “it is critical – not only for those seeking asylum, but also for the City’s long-term fiscal stability – to significantly ramp up outreach and legal immigration services to help asylum seekers navigate the paperwork that will enable them to live, work, and contribute to our city.”

“It’s been more than a year since the first asylum seekers arrived in New York City, and we still haven’t filled a contract for legal services. Clearly, $5 million isn’t enough to fill the needs of the nearly 50,000 asylum seekers in our care, and is why no provider has taken this inadequate contract. It’s clear we need the full $70 million,” said Immigration Committee Chair, Council Member Shahana Hanif.

“I’m proud to join forces with Comptroller Lander to make it explicitly clear to this administration that the current legal services RFP falls woefully short. We can’t meet this moment with half measures and underfunded mandates; we need real resources to get people the legal status they need.”

“The Administration continues to scramble to scale up emergency shelter, but has yet to dedicate resources toward pro se clinics and pro bono legal representation that would open pathways for asylum seekers to secure employment and permanent housing,” said Comptroller Brad Lander. “For the fiscal stability of the City and long-term welfare of new arrivals, the City must take a cost-saving approach by budgeting for the resources to navigate asylum seekers through our complex immigration system. Obtaining work authorizations and legal status will ultimately seed new lives, businesses, homes, and community for asylum seekers here in New York City. To live up to its ideals as a place of refuge and compassion, New York City must commit to increased legal services funding for asylum seekers.”

“At a time when many new and existing immigrant New Yorkers are desperately looking for legal assistance, it is time for the City to build on the success of the legal services infrastructure by investing a minimum of $70 million dollars for the upcoming fiscal year to be able to expand legal services across immigrant communities,” said Luba Cortes, Immigrant Defense Coordinator at Make the Road New York.

“Our Right-to-Shelter only means as much as the support we give to those seeking shelter to successfully get on their feet with dignity and create a new, stable, and safe life,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “As we push for immediate housing for our city’s incoming asylum seekers, we need to be proactive about creating the infrastructure to guarantee their long-term success. But I want to be clear, outcomes for people are completely dependent on our support now. I’m proud to be joining Comptroller Brad Lander, Council Member Shahana Hanif, NYIC, & Make the Road NY to call on Mayor Adams and the City Council to allocate an additional $70 million to expand services for our asylum seekers.”

“As over 70,000 asylum seekers are making their way into New York City from border states, we must shift our strategy beyond shelter care, to providing legal services, outreach, case management, and pro se clinics that could further stabilize their lives,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “Whether fleeing unstable economies, violence, or hunger, they like the millions before them, deserve the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. I want to thank New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, City Council Immigration Committee Chair Shahana Hanif, the New York Immigration Coalition, and Make the Road NY for proposing an increase in city funding to ensure our new neighbors receive support during this transition.”

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