A recent survey has shed light on the steep obstacles faced by migrants in New York City, with a substantial number struggling to access critical services such as legal aid, English language courses, reliable transportation, and consistent meals.
The study, conducted by advocacy groups Make the Road and Hester Street, surveyed 766 newly arrived asylum-seeking migrants in the city.
According to the findings, only around 6.6% (51 individuals) were able to secure legal representation for their United States asylum applications. Additionally, fewer than two dozen respondents have acquired work permits allowing them to work legally in the U.S. while their asylum applications are being processed.
The survey went on to reveal a myriad of other difficulties encountered by migrants. Roughly 197 respondents indicated they could not afford three full meals daily, 446 reported a lack of access to reliable transportation, and another 197 mentioned not having appropriate winter clothing.
Despite the city providing free English classes for migrants, 478 survey participants reported unsuccessful enrollment attempts. Among the 461 respondents who were parents, only 339 succeeded in registering all their children in a city public school.
Jose Lopez, the co-executive director of Make the Road, remarked that most asylum-seeking migrants are wrestling with the challenge of meeting basic needs.
This survey comes on the heels of last week’s statement from Anne Williams-Isom, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, who acknowledged that very few of the city’s migrant population had submitted asylum applications.
The city is grappling with a shortage of funds to offer legal aid to the surging number of migrants who have arrived since last spring, according to Mayor Eric Adams’ representative Kate Smart. She emphasized the pressing need for additional federal support for migrants’ legal representation and a faster process for granting work permits to asylum seekers.
Although the administration has dedicated $1.2 billion toward addressing the migrant crisis, it has earmarked a limited amount of this funding for legal services for migrants. Despite calls from Comptroller Brad Lander and others for increased funding for these services, the administration has set aside only $5 million, which had yet to be disbursed as of March.
Lander has recently campaigned to create a $70 million migrant legal fund. Nevertheless, the study by Make the Road and Hester Street suggests that the city should invest a minimum of $140 million in legal services for migrants.