backlog of asylum-seekers who are awaiting adjudication of their claims inside the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021
Individuals granted asylum in FY 2021
Nights of Lodging for asylees provided by SIH in 2021 (1,651 in 2019 before the pandemic)
Asylees accepting free lodging and social assistance provided by SIH in 2021 (36 in 2019)
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
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
WHAT IS THE RATE OF SUCCESS IN SECURING ASYLUM?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all immigration to the United States of America came to a hold. For 2022, 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", our temporary home.
According to a November 2021 report of TRAC Immigration, under the new Biden administration asylum seekers are seeing greater success rates in securing asylum. While asylum denial rates had grown ever higher during the Trump years to a peak of 71 percent in FY 2020, they fell to 63 percent in FY 2021. Expressed another way, success rates grew from 29 percent to 37 percent under President Biden.
However, with the continuing partial court shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sustained drop in the number of asylum decisions. This means fewer asylum seekers actually won their cases despite this improving success rate. During FY 2021 just 23,827 asylum decisions were made. This is down from 60,079 decisions during FY 2020. These statistics count all decisions rendered on the merits of asylum seekers' claims.
Even with the greater odds of success, the number of asylum seekers who were granted asylum during FY 2021 was only 8,349 with an additional 402 granted another type of relief in place of asylum. In sheer numbers, this was only about half the number of asylum seekers who had been granted relief during FY 2020.
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
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.