Total number of immigration detainees in 2019
Individuals granted asylum in 2020 (30,000 in 2019)
Nights of Lodging for asylees provided by SIH in 2020 (1,651 in 2019 before the pandemic)
Asylees accepting free lodging and social assistance provided by SIH in 2020 (36 in 2019)
WHAT IS AN ASYLUM SEEKER?
An individual outside their country of origin must prove that he or she has suffered past persecution and/or has a well-founded fear of future persecution based on one of five grounds or a combination of grounds:
Race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, and political opinion
HOW LONG DOES THE ASYLUM PROCESS TAKE?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all immigration to the United States of America came to a hold. For 2021, we expect more normacy as the immigration process gets reinstated and detaineed asylum seekers are granted the legal right to stay as asylees, some of whom will find their first home at "Seafarers International House Relocated", at another mid-town hotel.
According to the American Immigration Council, overall, the asylum process can take years to conclude. In some cases, a person may file his or her application and receive a hearing or interview date years in the future.
As of March 2018, there were more than 318,000 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 for such asylum seekers.
The backlog in U.S. immigration courts reached an all-time high in March 2018 with more than 690,000 open deportation cases. On average, these cases had been pending for 718 days and remained unresolved.
Individuals with an immigration court case who were ultimately granted relief—such as asylum—by March 2018 waited more than 1,000 days on average for that outcome. New Jersey and California had the longest wait times, averaging 1,300 days until relief was granted in the immigration case.
Asylum seekers, and any family members waiting to join them, are left in limbo while their case is pending. The backlogs and delays can cause prolonged separation of refugee families, leave family members abroad in dangerous situations, and make it more difficult to retain pro-bono counsel for the duration of the asylum seeker’s case.
Although asylum seekers may apply for work authorization after their case has been pending for 150 days, the uncertainty of their future impedes employment, education, and trauma recovery opportunities.
HOW DOES SEAFARERS INTERNATIONAL HOUSE HELP?
Organize volunteer visitation providing hope and encouragement to detainees
Provide free temporary lodging and social assistance to asylees with a referral from our approved partner agencies
Advocate on behalf of asylum seekers to improve conditions in detention centers and to shorten the time that cases take to be decided
SERVICES TO ASYLUM SEEKERS, IMMIGRANT DETAINEES, SEAFARERS AND MEDICAL CLIENTS
By: Maryam Zoma, Social Work Field Instructor Seafarers and International House, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College
For more information about our social work outreach to seafarers, asylum seekers and trips to detention centers to visit with immigrant detainees, email Marsh Drege.