Press Release: Council Member Carlina Rivera Passes Legislation Requiring New York City to Conduct Economic and Health-related Surveys of Newly Arrived Asylum Seekers

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Council Member Carlina Rivera Passes Legislation Requiring New York City to Conduct Economic and Health-related Surveys of Newly Arrived Asylum Seekers

This legislation will allow the City to more effectively support healthcare systems and workforce development 

June 6, 2024

New York, NY– Since April of 2022 over 201,000 individuals seeking asylum have entered New York City social service agency systems. With more than 65,500 individuals seeking asylum currently in the care of the City, elected leadership must be more proactive in providing opportunities for people to transition out of the shelter system and into more permanent living situations. The number of individuals and families seeking asylum in the United States has risen significantly in recent years, and today, Council Member Carlina Rivera passed legislation with a 50-0 vote that will enhance the City’s humanitarian response, laying the groundwork for more effective efforts moving forward.

Introduction 0084-2024 requires the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to develop and administer a workforce development survey of migrants and asylum seekers. The survey shall elicit information related to skills, economic opportunities, and workforce development obstacles of migrants and asylum seekers.

Introduction 0085-2024 requires the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, in coordination with any agency designated by the mayor, develop and administer an anonymous health survey of migrants and asylum seekers. The survey shall elicit information related to the long-term health needs and chronic conditions of migrants and asylum seekers, healthcare service requests from migrants and asylum seekers, healthcare referrals or interventions provided to migrants and asylum seekers, and, to the extent practicable, whether or not those referrals were accepted or those interventions took place.

Reports related to these surveys will be published online by September 30, 2025. By collecting data on the economic challenges and opportunities for individuals seeking asylum, City officials can better direct investments to community based organizations doing certifications and training and facilitate connections to open roles as more migrants secure employment authorization. Similarly, a comprehensive survey, and collection of anonymized data will help our public care systems respond and adapt to a changing landscape of needs and ensure we better understand barriers to securing quality insurance and healthcare.

Additionally, City Council voted to approve Council Member Rivera’s Resolution 0340-2024, calling on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to eliminate filing fees for humanitarian benefit applications and subsequent employment authorization applications and calling on Congress and the President to move significant funding to USCIS to cover the funding lost by the eliminated filing fees. Nearly 96% of the agency’s Fiscal Year 2024 $6.8 billion budget is generated from filing fees.

For individuals eligible for temporary protected status, humanitarian parole, or asylum, the required filing fees can complicate or delay access to relief and work authorization. Without eliminating fees for applicants of humanitarian relief and subsequent work authorization, these financial barriers could force individuals to enter an underground economy that increases their risk of labor exploitation or harm.

“We are in an era of global displacement and city leadership has an obligation to meet the challenge of supporting individuals and families seeking asylum in New York City to achieve stability through humane and effective policies. In speaking with community organizers, I have learned that we must accumulate data to understand how the city has supported work permit applications, entrepreneurship, workforce development initiatives, and access to healthcare in order to identify the gaps in our efforts,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-02). “In addition to enhancing our response at the local level, city leaders must continue to urge the federal government to provide New York City with financial support, employment authorization, language resources, and vocational training for individuals seeking asylum. Making smart investments that will help our newest neighbors settle into stable lives will lift all boats in the long run, and will keep the immigrant story of New York alive.”

“I’m grateful to Council Member Rivera for her efforts on these two reporting bills. For a group of people too often painted with a broad brush by pundits, as a whole we know very little about the health needs and working histories of the new arrivals searching for a home in our city. The information generated through these reports will better inform the services we provide and the planning our labor leaders can do. Congratulations on passage,” said Council Member Alexa Avilés, Chair of the Committee on Immigration.

“At AID FOR LIFE and AID FOR AIDS, we recognize the critical role of recent legislation in enhancing support for newly arrived immigrants in NYC. These measures are a significant step forward, enabling us to better understand and address the economic and health challenges faced by asylum seekers. Over the past two years, more than 200,000 individuals have navigated a complex federal process while relying on city support. We are eager to continue collaborating with New York City and all stakeholders on this initiative to develop the necessary research and tools to support migrants and their communities,” said Jesús Aguais, President of AID FOR LIFE/AID FOR AIDS.

“New York has welcomed immigrants to our city for generations and has prospered because of their contributions to our economy and culture. But currently, the city has little data to ascertain how best to integrate and support new arrivals in our workforce and communities. We commend Council Member Carlina Rivera in her leadership on Introduction 0084-2024 and Introduction 0085-2024, which will allow our city government to make better decisions in creating and administering programs to meet the needs of new New Yorkers, as well as ensuring that every family has an opportunity to thrive in New York City,” said Murad Awawdeh, President and CEO, New York Immigration Coalition.

“While the current administration frequently highlights the downfalls of the crises we face, they often fall short in implementing strategic initiatives to empower individuals to rise above these challenges. This essential data collection will provide the insights needed to devise effective strategies that promote economic mobility. By understanding the specific needs and skills of newly arrived asylum seekers, we can create targeted programs that not only assist them in their transition but also contribute to the economic vitality of New York City,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez (D-34).

“Providing stability to asylum seekers remains one of my top priorities. I am honored to join Council Member Rivera to advance Intros. 84 and 85 which will further that mission,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif (D-39). “For centuries, immigrants have been foundational to a booming New York City economy and these policies are a way to continue to support that type of stimulus. By gathering data on those entering our shelter system, we can better understand their skills and connect them to jobs that can strengthen our city. Investing wisely now ensures a brighter future for all, while preserving New York’s immigrant legacy.”

“Healthcare is a human right, which is why it is so important to assess the healthcare needs of new arrivals to New York City so we can ensure their health and the health of all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Lynn Schulman (D-29). “It is also important to understand the workforce strengths of recent arrivals to assist them in entering the workforce and contributing to the city’s economy. That is why it is so important to pass Intros 84 and 85 which will ensure the successful integration of new New Yorkers.”

“Equitable access to healthcare and employment opportunities for immigrants are basic human rights that New York City can and must guarantee. NYLPI applauds the passage of Intros. 0084 and 0085—legislation which will lay the groundwork for more compassionate and effective responses to the medical and mental health needs of asylum-seeking populations and migrants. This will be even more crucial for Black and LGBTQ+ immigrants, who are historically marginalized from health services and have poorer health outcomes due to bias and discrimination in care. The information collected through the legislations’ surveys will increase transparency in access to healthcare, housing, asylum navigation support, and employment, for all immigrant populations through reporting and trendspotting, ensuring city agencies are held accountable and can appropriately respond to areas needing improvement. NYLPI looks forward to reviewing the surveys’ results,” said Arielle Wisbaum, Health Justice Staff Attorney, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

“As an organization that works directly with recently arrived immigrants, we see these pieces of legislation as a good step towards improving all providers’ and especially the City’s work to more humanely and effectively welcome them,” said Lisa Rivera, President and CEO of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). “At a moment when various agencies continue implementing policies to make it that much harder for us to meet recent arrivals’ legal needs — thus interrupting their ability to establish stable lives here — these surveys covering their economic and health needs will give us a better understanding of those policies’ impacts, and further inform our roadmap to address them in a way that simultaneously cares for our new neighbors, puts them on a real path towards stability, and benefits the City at large.”

“Asylum-seekers and other newcomers today face innumerable day-to-day challenges as they seek to make a new home and find safe haven in New York. Just in the past two years, over 190,000 asylum-seekers have made their way to and through New York City, entering a complex and seemingly endless federal adjudication process while at the same time receiving transitional support from the City. Beginning in 2023, the Center for Migration Studies and Fordham University have partnered to study and better understand what are the opportunities and obstacles to their safe, humane, and dignified resettlement. Particularly at this time, when the national dialogue brings out distrust and dehumanization and political paralysis produces punishing policy solutions only, the passage of Intros. 0084 and 0085 is a welcome first step in getting to answers about housing, healthcare, and employment that are focused on individuals and the promise they bring, not justifications for their exclusion or demonization at the border. New York always has been–and always will be–made stronger by immigrants, who bring hope, energy, and a desire to strengthen America. We look forward to partnering with New York City, with this administration, and with all stakeholders on this initiative, developing and building the research and tools that will provide the necessary data to inform comprehensive relocation processes, and support migrants, their families, and the local communities,” said Mario Russell, Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies and Marciana Popescu, Professor, Fordham University, Graduate School of Social Service.

“Hot Bread Kitchen connects with and trains hundreds of immigrants, including recently arrived migrants, each year to launch careers in the food industry, and our team is keenly aware of the challenges this population faces in exiting the city’s shelter system and seeking employment opportunities to build their lives here in New York,” said Leslie Abbey, Chief Executive Officer of Hot Bread Kitchen. “The actions Council Member Carlina Rivera is taking today to both survey these newcomers’ workforce development and health needs, as well as to help alleviate some of the administrative burden of applying for work authorization, are welcome steps towards creating a more holistic and humane system for integrating newly arrived migrants into the fabric of our city.”

Contact: Edward Amador, [email protected]


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