New York legislators appeal to US President to accelerate aid for Caribbean asylum seekers
FILE - Haitians line up outside an immigration office as they wait their turns to apply for a passport, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, January 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

NEW YORK, (CMC) –Several New York City legislators are appealing to United States President Joe Biden to accelerate aid to New York City to assist Caribbean and other asylum seekers.

Among the wave of asylum seekers in New York City are Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans.

In a letter to President Biden, at least 30 New York legislators, including Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, are urging the US federal government to accelerate funding to municipalities to support arriving asylum seekers.

The legislators pressed for the City of New York to get its “due share” of the US$800 million in assistance for municipalities allocated by the US Congress in December.

“As New York City works mightily to help the United States government meet its obligations to honour the rights of people to seek asylum, we, the undersigned New York City elected officials, urge your administration to promptly provide federal aid to support the critical humanitarian assistance our city government has been providing to the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have arrived here in recent months,” the letter states.

“We request this support both in the form of a significant share of the US$800 million in Federal Emergency Management Administration fund—which we are grateful that Congress allocated for this purpose in December, and through categorical grants made directly to affected municipalities.

“We also urge you to move expeditiously to grant work authorisations to recently-arrived asylum seekers, so that they can find employment, as so many of them are eager to do. The right to flee persecution, and to seek asylum in another country, is a human right guaranteed under both international and US law,” the letter added.

The legislators said in their letter to Biden that, since last spring, New York City has welcomed about 40,000 asylum seekers, providing food, shelter, medical care, legal aid and education.

“We are currently providing shelter to approximately 27,000 asylum seekers. The population in our shelters has risen nearly 40 per cent from last year, with new arrivals now making up approximately one-third of New York City’s shelter population.

“While historically, the average cost of providing shelter has run closer to US$200 per person per day, quickly standing up emergency shelters is far more expensive – and costing the city well over US$300 per day. We estimate that the total cost to provide shelter and services to new arrivals this year will reach over one billion dollars, with costs continuing to increase so long as migrants continue to arrive.”

The legislators noted that New York City has made historic investments in providing free legal services to immigrants, spending US$67 million in 2022 alone.

“While this legal aid has been critical to assisting eligible immigrants and asylum seekers obtain the legal authorisation they need to remain in the country, bureaucratic delays within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement have caused an immense backlog in New York City immigration courts with over 124,000 cases pending as of December 2022. As a result, the legal process may take years,” the letter states.

The legislators strongly urged the Biden administration to expand its Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program and increase the number of work permits for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Senegal and Venezuela, “as we have rightly done for those from Afghanistan and Ukraine.”

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