Felicia Persaud (26512)
Felicia Persaud

On Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency regarding the thousands of asylum seekers who are now in the city’s shelters, after being put on buses there from Texas.

According to the mayor, more than 17,000 asylum seekers, mostly from South America, have been bused directly to New York City from the United States’ southern border since April of this year. 

Out of the almost 20,000 children now in NYC’s shelters, one in five is an asylum seeker, and every day the total number gets higher, according to Adams.

“We expect to spend at least $1 billion by the end of the fiscal year on this crisis. All because we have a functional, a compassionate system,” the mayor stated. “The time for aid to New York is now. We need help from the federal government, help from the state of New York.”

And most of all he added: “We need a realistic decompression strategy at the border that will slow the outflow of asylum seekers. We need a coordinated effort to move asylum seekers to other cities in this country to ensure everyone is doing their part.”

Well good luck with that Mr. Mayor. The current issue is unsustainable, regardless of how humane we all are. The main pesky issue is how long it takes to get an asylum claim processed in the U.S.

Here are the steps from application to end:

1: Arrive to file 

Arrive in the U.S. in order to be able to apply for asylum.

2: Apply within one year

To apply for asylum, applicants must file Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, with the USCIS within 1 year of arrival in the United States.

If they fail to file Form I-589 within 1 year of your arrival, they will no longer be eligible to apply for asylum under section 208(a)(2)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Once USCIS has received the completed application, the applicant will receive 2 notices:

a: Acknowledgment of receipt of application, and;

b: Notice to visit the nearest application support center (ASC) for fingerprinting.

3: Fingerprinting 

Read the ASC Appointment Notice and take it to the fingerprinting appointment at the ASC. Asylum applicants do not need to pay a fingerprinting fee.

4: Interview schedule

Depending on where you live, USCIS will schedule an interview with an asylum officer at either a USCIS asylum office or a USCIS field office. Your interview notice will tell you the date, location, and time of your asylum interview.

As of Jan. 29, 2018, the USCIS Asylum Division is scheduling asylum interviews in the following order of priority:

1st priority: Applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or the needs of USCIS;

2nd priority: Applications that have been pending 21 days or less since filing;

3rd priority: All other pending affirmative asylum applications will be scheduled for interviews starting with newer filings and working back towards older filings.

5: Interview

Once you secure an interview, you may bring an attorney or accredited representative to the interview. You must also bring your spouse and any children seeking derivative asylum benefits to the interview.

If you cannot proceed with the interview in English, you must bring an interpreter.

The interview will generally last about 1 hour, although the time may vary depending on the case. You may also bring witnesses to testify on your behalf.

6: Asylum officer makes determination

The asylum officer will determine whether you are eligible to apply for asylum at the interview or are barred from being granted asylum under section 208(b)(2) of the INA. 

A supervisory asylum officer reviews the asylum officer’s decision to ensure it is consistent with the law. Depending on the case, the supervisory asylum officer may refer the decision to asylum division staff at USCIS headquarters for additional review.

7: Decision

In most cases, you will return to the asylum office to pick up the decision 2 weeks after the asylum officer interviewed you. 

Longer processing times may be required if you:

Are currently in valid immigration status;

Were interviewed at a USCIS field office;

Have pending security checks; or

Have a case that is being reviewed by asylum division staff at USCIS headquarters.

USCIS says it will normally mail your decision to you in these situations. You can check your Case Status Online at https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do. All you need is the receipt number that was mailed to you after you filed your application.

According to the American Immigration Council, as of April 1, 2022, there were 470,786 affirmative asylum applications pending with USCIS. The government does not estimate the time it will take to schedule an initial interview for these asylum applicants, though historically the delay could reach four years.  

The backlog in U.S. immigration courts continues every month to reach all-time highs, with over 1.82 million open removal cases as of June 2022.  Through November 2021, asylum applications had been filed in over 671,000 removal cases, with the average case pending for over four years.

And although asylum seekers may apply for work authorization after their case has been pending for 150 days—or longer in some circumstances—the uncertainty of their future impedes employment, education, and trauma recovery opportunities. It is why the issue in New York City’s shelters and in other cities where asylum seekers have been dumped seems like a long hard road with no light in sight. 

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.com – The Black Immigrant Daily News. 

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