Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the launch of three new legal services grants aimed at assisting the thousands of immigrants who have arrived in New York City this year. A total of $3 million will be administered over three years by the New York State Office for New Americans to provide immigrants arriving in New York City with free immigration-related legal services and assistance with critical application filings and required appearances. The announcement builds upon Governor Hochul’s commitment to help new immigrants by supporting them throughout the immigration process.
“New York State has always been a beacon of hope, welcoming newly arrived immigrants with the promise of opportunity,” Governor Hochul said. “By providing them with the legal tools and resources they need to thrive, New York State will continue to uplift those who are trying to build better lives for themselves and their families.”
This program, administered by the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA), will provide immigrants arriving in New York City with free immigration-related legal services and assistance with critical application filings and required appearances. ONA will immediately dedicate $3,000,000 in new grant funding over a three-year period for the provision of such free immigrant legal services through the following three community-based organizations:
- Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS), Archdiocese of New York;
- New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
- Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC)
These three providers, already operating within the existing ONA network of nonprofits, have been on the ground since the beginning of the recent immigrant arrivals to New York City providing expertise in the provision and coordination of legal services.
The new grants will expand on ONA’s existing contracts with these providers and immediately build their capacity to support ongoing services to ensure that the legal needs of new arrivals are urgently addressed and supported throughout the immigration process. These resources will assist more immigrants more rapidly with their asylum applications and other immigration related legal matters including providing representation to recent arrivals.
New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “The safety and well-being of migrants coming to our state is a priority as individuals and families find themselves in unfamiliar territory trying to acclimate to an entirely new world. This additional funding for legal services will assist our partners in helping the incoming migrant population understand and navigate the various government programs aimed at helping them. New York has always been a welcoming place for people from all over the world. It’s what makes our state such a vibrant and cultural place to be.”
Through ONA’s existing legal providers CCCS and NYLAG, newly arrived immigrants can access free legal services including but not limited to: change of address; change of venue; asylum applications; assistance with their employment authorization document (EAD); and deportation defense.
In addition, this new initiative will bolster the coordination and training efforts of I-ARC, which provides technical support to the legal organizations assisting new arrivals, legal orientation for volunteers, as well as facilitates information sharing between legal providers and with the immigrant community. CCCS will also recruit and support volunteer pro bono attorneys to provide additional capacity and legal assistance to new arrivals, as well as referrals for non-legal services.
This coordinated effort aims at meeting the acute needs of the new arrivals to New York City, many of whom are seeking asylum. As it stands currently, once an asylum application is filed with the federal government, the applicant is not eligible for employment authorization until their asylum application has been pending for 180 days. However, an asylum applicant may apply for their employment authorization document 150 days after filing their asylum application to allow for the possibility of receiving employment authorization approval at the 180-day mark. Once they receive their EAD approval, they will be allowed to seek employment to support themselves and their families.
Assemblymember Catalina Cruz said, “There’s never been a greater need for immigrant legal services in New York. As new Americans arrive in our great State from all over the world, New York continues to be a beacon of hope and humanity. I am thrilled at the Governor’s commitment of an additional 3 million dollars to help address the already existing backlog of cases and assist immigrants secure legal services so that they can continue to call New York home.”
Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities said, “The huge surge of asylum seekers to New York over the past six months has created an unprecedented challenge. And, once again, New York has demonstrated leadership in welcoming newcomers seeking safety and opportunity in the United States. Government, community-based organizations, religious organizations and individual New Yorkers have stepped forward to support our new neighbors. This initiative by NYS to ensure legal services for those fleeing violence, persecution and other dangers in their own countries is most important, critically needed. It should be heartily applauded. To lend a helping hand not only is in the best interest of newly arrived individuals and families, it is in New York’s best interest in fostering a vibrant state and a strong economy.”
Camille Mackler, Executive Director of Immigrant ARC said, “We commend Governor Hochul for this renewed commitment by New York State to ensuring access to legal representation for those who have come here seeking protection. Asking an asylum seeker to face the legal process alone and without so much as an explanation of the requirements they must meet is, quite simply, setting them up to fail, and dishonors the principles upon which this country was built. We are proud to be part of this effort by the Governor to counter the hateful rhetoric of those who use human lives as political pawns, and instead to show that migration is not a crisis, but a reality that can – and must – be met with compassion and dignity.”
Jodi Ziesemer, Director of the Immigrant Protection Unit at NYLAG said, “All immigrants arriving in New York City in search of safety from political oppression, violence, and poverty deserve quality legal support and a chance to build sustainable foundations in this country We thank Governor Hochul for this vital funding to address the emergency legal needs of our city’s newly arrived immigrants. We are proud to be part of New York City’s efforts to welcome political refugees from Venezuela and South America, as was done for Ukrainians feeling war and Afghans fleeing political collapse. We are hopeful that this funding will serve as an example of the type of commitment and investment needed for long-term solutions to this humanitarian crisis.”
Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of Hispanic Federation said, “As other Governors play politics with the lives of families arriving at our border, Hispanic Federation is proud that Governor Hochul is leading with our New York values and supporting immigrants who are seeking refuge. The families arriving at the border and in our state are fleeing civil strife, environmental disaster, violence, and so much more. This funding is critical to provide access to legal services which will help asylum seekers complete their journey and finally have a chance to call our country home without fear of deportation. Hispanic Federation looks forward to our continued partnership with New York to support and bolster immigrants across the state.”
Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition said, “Thank you Governor Hochul for ensuring that asylum seekers have access to legal representation. Navigating the immigration courts alone can be an almost impossible task for anyone, let alone newly arrived immigrants and those who do not speak English, and have no prior knowledge of the U.S. legal system. Without access to legal representation, immigrants are far more likely to lose their legal cases, and to be deported back to countries where their lives and livelihoods remain in jeopardy. New York State’s most recent investment in legal services funding is an important first step to giving immigrant New Yorkers a fighting chance to actually achieve the safety they and their families deserve. We look forward to our continued partnership to ensure the protection of our newest neighbors.”
Today’s announcement builds upon Governor Hochul’s commitment to help incoming immigrants with increased funding. ONA currently provides approximately $13 million in annual funding to not-for-profit, community-based providers to deliver free legal assistance to immigrants in need. ONA’s current network of legal providers provide comprehensive legal services through a universal representation model, which provides legal representation to any immigrant in need of legal services.
In 2021, ONA’s legal programs, including its Legal Counsels, Opportunity Centers – Civics, Upstate Immigration Court, Pro Bono Project, and other special initiatives assisted over 28,000 immigrant clients with free legal screenings and consultations, Know Your Rights trainings, immigration application assistance, and other free legal services.
In order to access these legal services, individuals can call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to be referred to their nearest legal provider or legal clinic. The New Americans Hotline operates from 9:00am to 8:00pm, Monday through Friday. All calls are confidential. Assistance is available in over 200 languages. For more information, visit https://dos.ny.gov/office-new-americans or follow ONA on Twitter at @NYSNewAmericans or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NYSNewAmericans.
Originally published by Governor Hochul’s Press Office on November 30, 2022