7% of NYC asylum seekers have found lawyers to represent them, survey says

Lauren Glassberg Image
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Migrants seek legal assistance to apply for asylum
In a survey conducted by Make the Road NY, only 51 of 766 migrants surveyed said they have lawyers helping them navigate the asylum application process.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- As New York City struggles to accommodate the influx of asylum seekers, another problem has added to the crisis: the lack of legal representation for migrants.

Mayor Eric Adams says he is serious about housing a migrant family in Gracie Mansion.

The city has been looking for ways to house asylum seekers since they began flooding in via Texas last year.

But on Tuesday, there was a push to start focusing on legal services.

"95% of respondents intend to seek asylum, but less than 10% have been able to find a lawyer to support them," said Daniel Altschuler of Make the Road New York.

Make the Road New York surveyed 766 migrants who recently came to the city and found that only 51 of them have lawyers helping them navigate the asylum application process.

An application must be submitted in order to be authorized to work. So far, fewer than two dozen of those surveyed have received work permits.

"The most immediate thing we can do to help people move out of shelter is provide, which is very expensive, is to provide the legal representation and support to help people get work authorizations and jobs so they can move out of shelter," New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said.

Approximately 99% of the city's budget for migrants is spent on shelters and food. Only 1% goes to legal assistance.

The report calls for an additional $140 million in money for legal services.

"We will save that money back many times, that investment will save hundreds of millions of dollars and people get employment and move out of shelter," Lander said.

The city needs financial aid from the federal government, which is why the City Council sent a delegation to Washington DC on Tuesday lobbying for a financial aid package.

"We have the ability, we have the resources, what we need is the political will to get that done," New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in White Plains on Tuesday blocked two counties north of New York City from enforcing executive orders meant to keep migrants and asylum seekers out.

The executive orders were issued by Rockland County and Orange County after New York City announced a plan last month to transport migrants and asylum seekers to two hotels, one in Newburgh and one in Orangeburg.

The orders barred the local hotels from making their rooms available to the asylum seekers.

The counties said New York City unilaterally instituted a program of transporting and setting up "homeless shelters" for migrants and asylum-seekers, justifying the issuance of the Rockland and Orange County executive orders. The New York Civil Liberties union said the executive orders violated the constitutional and federal civil rights of the migrants and asylum seekers.

The judge agreed the executive orders in both counties suggest discriminatory motives. In Orange County, "the record shows that the desire to exclude migrants and asylum seekers into the community was a motivating factor when issuing the executive order," Judge Nelson Roman wrote.

In Rockland County "the comments made by the Rockland County Defendant appear even more disparaging and racially charged than those made by the Orange County Defendant," the judge said.

The judge noted that his ruling does not usurp existing temporary restraining orders imposed by a state court. So, for the moment, the ban on asylum seekers in the northern suburbs continues.

"These people are heading to New York City because it is a Sanctuary City and instead of living up to that declaration of Sanctuary, Mayor Eric Adams and the City is exporting them to neighboring municipalities across the State of New York including Rockland County," county executive Ed Day said.

The New York Civil Liberties Union hailed the ruling nonetheless.

"Today's decision sends a loud and clear message not only to Rockland and Orange Counties, but to all of the counties who have issued these discriminatory executive orders: the Constitution does not allow you to build walls around your county limits," said NYCLU's Amy Belsher. "Instead of playing politics with the lives of some of the most vulnerable, our state must uphold its legacy of being a beacon of refuge and new beginnings."


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More New York City news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.