NYC Legal Clinic Blitz Assists Nearly 2000 Asylum Seekers Obtain Work Permits

New York, NY—Between Monday 9/25/23 and run through Friday 10/6/23, the New York Immigration Coalition and Immigrant ARC, with support from American Immigration Lawyers Association, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and The Legal Aid Society, hosted a work permit clinic for asylum seekers living in New York City shelters. In this joint effort with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), New York City and New York State, community groups filed 1,728 applications for work permits for recent arrivals.

This was the first collaboration between Federal, State and City governments in New York submitting Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications for clients in-person. The City identified eligible individuals and scheduled them for appointments, the State provided the space and materials, and USCIS was on site to capture biometrics, adjudicate fee waiver requests, and receive applications. The effort was assisted by over 100 volunteers over the course of the two-week clinic.

“Work authorizations are a key answer to how asylum seekers will be able to get out of shelters and start on the path to self-sufficiency as New Yorkers. This two-week work authorization clinic was a glowing example of what we can accomplish when the Federal, State and City governments, aided by the expertise of nonprofits with cultural competency, work together around aligned objectives. Now that we have proof of what can be achieved together, it is imperative that such collaborations – and investments – continue in helping our newest New Yorkers get to work,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

“The last two weeks showed what can be accomplished when community groups, providers, and all levels of government work together towards a common goal. Work permits serve as a lifeline towards self-sufficiency and integration. Thanks to all this work, nearly 2,000 shelter residents have been put on a path to dignity, self-sufficiency and a more stable and hopeful future in their new home. And New Yorkers once again showed our ability to welcome people with dignity and open hearts. Our hope is that this moment was a pivot point in how we respond locally to the increase in arrivals from the Southern Border, and that inflammatory rhetoric and scapegoating can finally be put aside in favor of working together towards meaningful solutions. We are especially grateful to USCIS leadership who were willing to think of new ways in how they work with local groups on the ground to address critical needs in real time,” said Camille Mackler, Executive Director, Immigrant ARC.

“AILA New York is incredibly proud of our members who heeded the call to participate in this groundbreaking collaboration. As immigration attorneys, we feel the need to serve our communities and this clinic offered an opportunity for our members to volunteer their time in an efficient and effective manner. Successfully processing 1,728 work authorization applications and assisting hundreds more individuals from New York City shelters in less than 10 days is remarkable and a testament to what we can achieve when we work together. AILA New York welcomes future collaboration with the Federal, State, and City Governments in serving our community,” said Kushal Patel, Chair, American Immigration Lawyers Association New York.

“The Legal Aid Society is proud to be participating in the effort to help thousands of asylum seekers obtain work permits. Quickly getting work permits in the hands of our newest New Yorkers is key to them finding stability and independence here and moving out of shelter.  This unique partnership brought together immigration advocates, community and pro bono partners, and all levels of government and is a tremendous example of how we can all work together constructively to help our newest New Yorkers,” said Deborah Lee, Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigration Law Unit, The Legal Aid Society.

“Time and again, we have seen the transformation that can happen when a person who has endured trauma is able to regain some agency through access to lawful employment. Many of the people served at this clinic have experienced unspeakable violence, poverty, oppression and fled their homes to save their lives. It was an honor to lend aid to these courageous individuals and families seeking the promises of protection and opportunity that New York and our country offers. We were grateful to collaborate with local, state, and federal partners in this extraordinary effort, and we look forward to assisting more newly arrived migrants find hope and self-sufficiency through work authorization,” said Jill Marie Bussey, Director for Public Policy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.