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Gov. Hochul Announces Legal Utility Program to Help Newly Arrived Immigrants in New York City

Gov. Kathy Hochul today announced the introduction of three new legal services grants aimed at helping 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 free immigration-related legal services and assistance with critical applications and required appearances to immigrants arriving in New York City. The announcement builds on Governor Hochul’s commitment to helping new immigrants by assisting them throughout the immigration process.

“New York State has always been a beacon of hope, welcoming newcomers with a promise of opportunity,” said Governor Hochul. “By providing them with the legal tools and resources they need to succeed, New York State will continue to uplift those who are trying to build a better life for themselves and their families.”

Administered by the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA), this program provides immigrants arriving in New York City with free immigration-related legal advice and assistance with critical application submissions and required appearances. ONA will immediately provide $3,000,000 in new grants over three years for the provision of such free immigrant legal services through the following three community-based organizations:

  • Community Services of Catholic Charities (CCCS), Archdiocese of New York;
  • New York Legal Aid Group (NYLAG)
  • Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC)

These three providers, already operating within ONA’s existing network of nonprofit organizations, have been on the ground in New York City since the recent arrival of immigrants began, offering expertise in the delivery and coordination of legal services.

The new grants will expand ONA’s existing contracts with these providers and immediately build their capacity to support ongoing services to ensure the legal needs of newcomers are urgently addressed and supported throughout the immigration process. These resources will help more immigrants more quickly with their asylum claims and other immigration-related legal matters, including representing newcomers.

New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said: “The safety and well-being of migrants arriving in our state is a priority as individuals and families find themselves in unfamiliar territory trying to adjust to a whole new world. This additional funding for legal services will help our partners to help the incoming migrant population understand and navigate the various government programs designed to help them. New York has always been a welcoming place for people from all over the world. That’s what makes our state such a vibrant and cultural place.”

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 location; asylum applications; Work Permit Assistance (EAD); and deportation protection.

In addition, this new initiative will strengthen the coordination and training efforts of I-ARC, which provides legal guidance for volunteers to legal organizations supporting newcomers and facilitates information sharing between legal providers and the immigrant community. CCCS will also recruit and support pro bono volunteer attorneys to provide additional capacity and legal assistance and referrals for non-legal services to newcomers.

This coordinated effort aims to meet the acute needs of New York City’s new arrivals, many of whom are seeking asylum. As things stand, once an application for asylum has been made to the federal government, the applicant is not entitled to a work permit until his application for asylum has been pending for 180 days. However, an asylum seeker can apply for their work permit document 150 days after filing their asylum application to have the chance to get a work permit after 180 days. Once they receive their EAD accreditation, they are allowed to seek employment to support themselves and their families.

Congregation member Catalina Cruz said: “There has never been a greater need for immigrant legal services in New York. As new Americans come to our great state from all over the world, New York continues to be a beacon of hope and humanity. I am thrilled with the Governor’s commitment to an additional $3 million to help clear the existing case backlog and help immigrants secure legal services so they can continue to call New York home.”

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, said: “The huge influx of asylum seekers into New York over the past six months has created an unprecedented challenge. And once again, New York has shown leadership in welcoming newcomers seeking safety and opportunity in the United States. Government, community-based organizations, religious organizations, and individual New Yorkers have come forward to support our new neighbors. This NYS initiative to provide legal assistance to those fleeing violence, persecution and other dangers in their own countries is extremely important and much needed. She should be wholeheartedly welcomed. Lending a helping hand is not only in the best interests of newly arrived individuals and families, but also in the best interests of New York to foster a vibrant state and strong economy.”

Camille Mackler, Executive Director of Immigrant ARC, said: “We commend Governor Hochul for this renewed commitment by New York State to ensure access to legal representation for those who have come here seeking protection. Asking an asylum seeker to face the judicial process alone, with no explanation of the requirements that their meeting must have, is quite easy to derail and dishonors the principles on which this country was built. We are proud to be part of this governor’s effort to counter the hateful rhetoric of those who use human lives as political pawns, and instead show that migration is not a crisis, but a reality that can be met with compassion and dignity and got to.”

Jodi Ziesemer, Director of the Immigrant Protection Unit at NYLAG, said: “All immigrants who arrive in New York City seeking safety from political oppression, violence and poverty deserve quality legal assistance and a chance to build a sustainable foundation in this country of the city’s newly arrived immigrants. We are proud to be part of New York City’s effort to welcome political refugees from Venezuela and South America, as it has done for Ukrainians feeling the effects of war and Afghans fleeing political collapse. We hope this funding will serve as an example of the kind of commitment and investment needed for long-term solutions to this humanitarian crisis.”

Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation said: “While other governors play politics with the lives of families who arrive at our border, the Hispanic Federation is proud that Governor Hochul is leading with our New York values ​​and supporting immigrants seeking refuge. The families arriving at the border and into our state are fleeing civil war, environmental disasters, violence and more. This funding is critical to provide access to legal services that help asylum seekers complete their journey and finally have a chance to call our country home without fear of deportation. Hispanic Federation is excited about our continued partnership with New York to support and empower immigrants across the state.”

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said: “Thank you, Governor Hochul, for making sure asylum seekers have access to legal counsel. Navigating the immigration courts alone can be a nearly impossible task for anyone, let alone newly arrived immigrants and those who don’t speak English and have no prior knowledge of the US legal system. Without access to legal counsel, immigrants are much more likely to lose their legal cases and be pushed back to countries where their lives and livelihoods remain at risk. New York State’s recent investment in legal services funding is an important first step in giving New York immigrants a chance to truly have the security they and their families deserve. We look forward to our continued partnership to ensure the protection of our newest neighbors.”

Today’s announcement builds on Governor Hochul’s pledge to provide more resources to help incoming immigrants. ONA currently allocates approximately $13 million in annual funding to nonprofit, community-based providers to provide free legal aid to immigrants in need. ONA’s current network of legal service providers provides comprehensive legal services through a universal representation model that provides legal representation to any immigrant in need of legal services.

In 2021, ONA’s legal programs, including Legal Advisers, Opportunity Centers – Civics, the Upstate Immigration Court, the Pro Bono Project and other special initiatives, supported over 28,000 immigrant clients with free legal reviews and consultations, Know Your Rights training , assistance with immigration applications, and other free legal services.

To gain access to these legal services, individuals may call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to be referred to the nearest legal service provider or legal clinic. The New Americans Hotline is staffed Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. All calls are confidential. Help 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.

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