Secondary Navigation

Mayor Adams Announces Asylum Application Help Center has Helped Submit Over 1,300 Asylum Applications in Matter of Weeks, Announces Higher Education Partnerships for Fall Semester

August 2, 2023

Innovative Model is First in Nation to Combine Government, Law Firm, Corporate, Nonprofit, and University Support to Provide Pro Se Application Support at Scale

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced that the city’s Asylum Application Help Center has helped migrants mail more than 1,300 asylum applications since it began at the end of June, helping thousands of families take another step closer towards receiving work authorization. Mayor Adams also announced that a consortium of the city’s cornerstone higher education institutions — led by New York University (NYU) — will provide undergraduate and graduate student application assistants throughout the fall as the center scales.

The consortium consists of four City University of New York (CUNY) schools: Baruch College, City College, Hunter College, and Queens College; Columbia University; New York Law School; and New York University. Each institution will sponsor three full days at the clinic this fall by giving their students the chance to volunteer as application assistants. Additionally, many of the institutions will offer students the opportunity to earn credit for time spent at the center, either in the form of courses or internships. In total, the sponsored days, for-credit courses, and undergraduate and graduate internships are expected to provide opportunities for hundreds of students to support thousands of asylum seekers in submitting their asylum applications.

“Asylum seekers arriving to our country are seeking to build the American Dream, and here in New York City, we are working to give them a shot at it. I am proud to announce that, in the little over a month since we opened our Asylum Application Help Center, we have assisted migrants submit over 1,300 asylum applications,” said Mayor Adams. “Our innovative model is the first in the nation to combine government, private law firms, and nonprofits as they provide asylum application help at this scale. We want to thank the more than 30 private law firms that have been working pro bono to help with these applications, and we want to welcome some of the city’s leading universities that have committed to providing undergraduate and graduate student application assistants to help volunteer with this task throughout the fall. This is an all-hands-on deck issue, and we are doing what no one else has done: coming together from all corners of our city to help our newest New Yorkers get their applications in.”

“As the city deals with a historic influx of asylum seekers, this administration remains focused on finding innovate ways to meet the moment — and today is no different,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “Thanks to the cross-sector collaboration between the private and nonprofit sectors, over 1,000 asylum applications have been mailed, offering individuals a fair shot to navigate our country’s immigration system. I applaud all the law firms and higher education institutions for answering the call and working with the city to find a pathway forward for asylum seekers.”

“The humanitarian crisis facing New York City is a once-in-a-generation moment that requires our city to bring everyone to the table to find a path forward,” said Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack. “Today’s announcement shows that we still have partners who can meet this unprecedented moment and help the city deliver services to asylum seekers seeking help. Asylum seekers have made it clear that they want the ability to work and contribute in their quest for the American Dream — and this collaboration brings our city one step closer to making that wish a reality.”

“Thank you to all the staff and partners that comprise the Asylum Seeker Application Help Center for helping us reach a significant milestone of over 1,300 federal asylum applications,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “While we have much more to do, we are showing what can be achieved when we all come together to support our newest neighbors. Thank you as well to the many academic institutions that will be joining us in this work in the weeks and months to come. New York City will continue to do our part, but we need the federal government to accelerate the process for work authorization to help families begin their path to independence.”

“The Asylum Application Help Center has been a tremendous success because of the corps of dedicated staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to provide top-notch services to the newest members of our community,” said City Hall Chief Counsel Brendan McGuire. “Delivering individualized asylum application support at this scale and speed is unprecedented.  By assisting with thousands of asylum applications, the city is putting these new community members on a path to work authorization and stability. I am grateful for the contributions of the law firms, companies, and universities who have joined us in this effort, and the city looks forward to welcoming more partners in the fall.”

“The Asylum Application Help Center is one example of the city’s unwavering commitment to finding creative solutions to address this national humanitarian crisis,” said New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix.

“We thank universities and other partners for joining us in helping asylum seekers and their families take the next critical steps on their journeys,” said Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro. “With their support, we again demonstrate how New Yorkers are coming together to help while we await much-needed support from the federal government.”

“Under the mayor’s leadership, an all-hands approach is producing innovative solutions to the asylum seeker humanitarian crisis, and standing up a help center to help migrants navigate the arduous asylum application process and chart a course to work authorization is the latest example,” said Chief Policy and Delivery Officer Sherif Soliman. “I extend my gratitude towards the law firms that have volunteered their time to this important cause and towards the institutions of higher education that have made it part of their mission to both provide learning experiences for their students and step up to help in the city’s moment of need.”

The Asylum Application Help Center helps asylum seekers complete and file asylum applications — the first step to ultimately applying for work authorization. Interested asylum seekers are scheduled for one-on-one appointments at the application help center, where trained application assistants provide individualized support to the applicant. Experienced immigration lawyers are on site to supervise application assistants and provide guidance, and interpreters are on site to provide in-person language assistance. Since opening at the end of June, the center has helped over 1,300 asylum seekers and their families submit their asylum applications, setting these families on a track to secure work authorization in the coming months.

Over 30 of the city’s leading law firms and major corporations — with the support of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel — together sent over 600 volunteer application assistants and support staff to the center. Mayor Adams is deeply grateful for the contributions of the following partners: Arnold & Porter LLP; Ashurst LLP; Bloomberg L.P.; Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Dechert LLP; Foley Hoag LLP; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Greenberg Traurig, LLP; Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; Lowenstein Sandler LLP; Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP; McDermott Will & Emery; Morgan Stanley; Paul Hastings LLP; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Proskauer Rose LLP; Ropes & Gray LLP; Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; Seyfarth Shaw LLP; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; White & Case LLP; Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP ;Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC; and Winston & Strawn LLP. The Asylum Application Help Center looks forward to welcoming additional partners from the legal and corporate community throughout the fall.

The city continues to seek experienced immigration attorneys to apply to serve as per diem supervising attorneys at the Asylum Application Help Center. Interested attorneys can review the qualifications and apply online.

Helping asylum seekers to file asylum applications helps deliver on another promises made in Mayor Adams’ “The Road Forward: A Blueprint to Address New York City’s Response to the Asylum Seeker Crisis,” released this spring. The Adams administration also continues to strongly urge the federal government to immediately use every tool at its disposal to protect and support newly arrived migrants and asylum seekers — and the municipalities supporting them — by expanding Humanitarian Parole and Temporary Protected Status and expediting asylum-based work authorization.

Since this humanitarian crisis began, New York City has taken fast and urgent action — opening 194 emergency sites, including 13 other large-scale humanitarian relief centers already, with two more humanitarian relief centers set to open in the coming weeks. The city has also stood up navigation centers to connect asylum seekers with critical resources; enrolled thousands of children in public schools through Project Open Arms; and more. 

“We are pleased that CUNY students will be able to participate in this laudable opportunity that will allow them to earn college credit and gain hands-on counseling experience while helping eligible migrants apply for asylum,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “The goals of this partnership with the Mayor’s Office are closely aligned with those of CUNY, a public university with a historical mandate to serve New Yorkers of all backgrounds and circumstances. Many of our students are themselves immigrants or the children of immigrants, strivers who bring a personal understanding of the challenges of coming to a new country in search of a better life.”

“Like New York City, Baruch College is a place steeped in the value of inclusion, a place where great transformation is possible for those who are willing to work hard for it,” said Dr. Linda Essig, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, Baruch College of the City University of New York. “This partnership with the Mayor’s Office is a valuable opportunity for Baruch College students — some of the most compassionate and collaborative problem solvers in the city — to make a positive impact on society, right here where they live.”

“Our students have a special affinity for service placements, particularly on issues that resonate with their own life experience,” said Vincent Boudreau, president, City College of New York (CCNY). “With so many CCNY and CUNY students coming from unsettled backgrounds, this project is a particularly resonate way for them to develop their skills in service to people truly in need.”

“As New York City welcomes an extraordinary number of new migrants, we are pleased to support the New York City Asylum Application Help Center,” said Andrew Rich, the Richard J. Henley and Susan L. Davis Dean of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, City College of New York. “As a city, it is essential that we assist eligible migrants to apply for asylum and become eligible to work and our students will help staff the center to guide new migrants through the asylum application process.”

“The primary mission of the social work profession is to maximize human well-being and ensure that all can thrive, no matter their life circumstances,” says Melissa Begg, dean, Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW). “This starts with meeting the basic needs of all people, with particular attention to supporting and empowering those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. Social workers are also specially trained to deliver trauma-informed care and to advocate for appropriate services. At CSSW, we hold firm to these commitments by ensuring that our students and alums have the opportunity to use their training to serve the communities that are most often pushed to the margins. We are proud to be part of the collective group of higher education institutions here in New York City that will support the city’s efforts to provide safety and security for those seeking asylum.”

“Hunter College and CUNY have served as the engine of social integration and economic mobility for generations of immigrant New Yorkers,” said Ann Kirschner, interim president, Hunter College. “We appreciate Mayor Adams’ effort to enlist our students to help asylum seekers take their first steps toward achieving the American Dream.”

“The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College is proud to be a partner in this important project,” said Mary Cavanaugh, dean, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. “Our students can earn valuable experience as they help guide asylum seekers in New York City through the complicated immigration process.”

“Queens College very much welcomes the opportunity to work with the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York on the asylum assistance project, consistent with our longstanding tradition of support for the aspirations of immigrants and migrants,” said Dr. Nathalia Holtzman, interim associate provost, Queens College. “Our college motto is ‘We Learn So That We May Serve.’ By involving student interns, volunteers, and through appropriate academic experiences, we are contributing in a most positive way to helping those in need of support to navigate the asylum application maze.”

“I have been proud to assist in the design and implementation of the application center,” said Lenni B. Benson, distinguished chair in immigration and human rights law, New York Law School. “Our law school has one of the nation’s leading immigration law programs and a long track record of helping immigrants and asylum seekers. It is important for institutions with depth and expertise to step up and offer their meaningful assistance to those who are in great need and crisis. As a result, our community members will become even better prepared to have a deep and sustainable impact throughout the city and beyond.”

“NYU is honored to join in this important effort to support the newest New Yorkers seeking asylum in a city that has long welcomed immigrants and celebrated their contributions to our vibrant urban life,” said Georgina Dopico, interim provost, NYU. “I’m especially proud that NYU, together with our partner universities, is able to offer what is perhaps our most valuable resource — the time and talent of our students, faculty, and staff — to help advance this cause.”

“NYU’s unmatched global presence underscores the need for our students to contribute to a world filled with challenges that are not confined to a single nation’s borders,” said Linda G. Mills, president, New York University. “We are proud to work alongside the city, our fellow institutions of higher education, this group of law firms, and others in this important effort to help asylum seekers in New York.”

“The AILA New York chapter is proud of its members who have supported and partnered with New York City’s new asylum clinic to help the large numbers of recently arrived immigrants,” said Kushal Patel, New York Chapter Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). “We know firsthand that providing this legal assistance will make the world of difference and will ultimately benefit New York. We appreciate the efforts of the Mayor’s Office to spearhead this initiative and look forward to its expansion and our members having further opportunities to assist.”

“The Association of Pro Bono Counsel is grateful to Mayor Adams and his team for their monumental efforts to mobilize and facilitate the provision of pro bono asylum support to the refugees arriving in New York City,” said Elizabeth Lewis and Rachel Strong, co-presidents, Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo). “The program and structure that they have developed has enabled hundreds of volunteer lawyers at private law firms to efficiently and effectively assist these refugees as they seek to launch new lives in the U.S. While there has been significant progress, the need remains great and, as such, we are thrilled that the program will continue. APBCo and its members look forward to continuing to partner with the Mayor’s Office on this important initiative.”

“Arnold & Porter is proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office to continue our longstanding tradition of assisting vulnerable migrants fleeing from violence and persecution,” said Jim Herschlein, co-chair, Arnold & Porter’s Litigation group. “It is a privilege for our attorneys to assist the city in its efforts to meet this unprecedented humanitarian crisis with compassion and a commitment to justice.”

“Cravath is pleased to assist Mayor Adams in this important initiative to provide much needed pro bono legal services to asylum seekers”, said Antony L. Ryan, partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP.

“Commitment to pro bono legal service is a longstanding tradition and core aspect of Foley Hoag’s identity and culture,” said Rebecca Cazabon, pro bono counsel, Foley Hoag LLP. “Our lawyers have been particularly engaged in immigration work, and we are proud to partner with the New York City Mayor’s Office to help low-income asylum seekers.”

“Fried Frank has provided pro bono service to asylum seekers and other immigrants for decades,” said Karen Grisez, pro bono counsel, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. “We are proud to be part of this effort to help New York City’s recently arrived migrants timely complete their asylum applications, qualify for work authorization, and move on to self-sufficiency.”

“As part of the firm’s robust pro bono practice, Gibson Dunn has been privileged to help hundreds of asylum seekers over the years in establishing their new homes in the United States,” said Katherine Marquart, partner and pro bono chair, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “Various crises around the globe have led to an unprecedented number of asylum seekers coming to New York to find safety, and Gibson Dunn has been honored to join forces with the City of New York and other community partners to try to meet the unprecedented demand for pro bono legal services. In the last week alone, dozens of volunteers from Gibson Dunn staffed the Asylum Application Help Center and were able to help families take the first step towards permanent refuge here in New York City.”

“We believe that it is our duty as a global law firm to support those in our communities who need it most, and few groups need that assistance as critically and imminently as asylum seekers,” said Caroline J. Heller, chair, global pro bono program, Greenberg Traurig. “We are honored to have the opportunity to provide support to the Asylum Application Help Center and play a small role in helping these individuals integrate into their new lives by helping them take this important first step.”

“At Manatt, we have a deep and abiding commitment to pro bono work and to helping increase access to legal services, including for those seeking refuge from violence, persecution, and abuse,” said Sirena Castillo, director of pro bono, Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP. “The work we do with the Asylum Application Help Center is a direct reflection of this commitment, and we are proud to be part of these efforts.”

“Morgan Stanley is proud to work alongside partner law firms and the City of New York in assisting individuals and families applying for asylum, the first step toward obtaining work authorization,” said Erin Law, pro bono lead counsel, Morgan Stanley. “Through our pro bono program, Morgan Stanley employees have a long history of assisting individuals who have fled dangerous conditions in their home countries, and we are pleased to bring this experience to support the Asylum Application Help Center.”

“We stand ready to continue to help with this first step towards getting people authorization to work,” said Brad S. Karp, chair, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

“Ropes & Gray is proud to help provide legal assistance to the tens of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing dangerous situations for a chance at a new beginning,” said John Sorkin, office managing partner, New York office, Ropes & Gray. “This work is helping to create a more stable situation for these individuals. Getting them settled and established is important to their quality of life, to our communities and the city’s economy. Our involvement with the City of New York’s immigration clinic exemplifies the firm’s commitment to ‘practice with purpose’ to better our community. Resolving asylum status helps all New Yorkers by bringing immigrants out of the shadows.”

“Seyfarth is honored to contribute to such important work, and we are proud to support asylum seekers in their quest for safety and stability,” said Ashley Cano, pro bono and philanthropy partner, Seyfarth Shaw. “One of our volunteers put it best: ‘Volunteering at the Help Center has been a touching experience. It is hard to hear what people have had to endure and the situations they are in, but I’m happy to be able to help them get one step closer toward gaining legal status.’”

“We are honored to be a part of New York City’s ongoing efforts to assist children and adults who are fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries and are seeking asylum,” said Josh Levine, co-chair, pro bono committee, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. “It has been deeply gratifying to have the opportunity to assist so many families during this humanitarian crisis.”

“Willkie’s dedication to helping those seeking safety and a new life in the United States always has been a core feature of our pro bono practice,” said Stacey E. Kushlefsky, pro bono counsel, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. “We are proud to support the Mayor’s Office in this important initiative.”

“WilmerHale is proud to partner with Mayor Adams and the legal community to provide much-needed legal services to asylum seekers across the city,” said Boyd Johnson, partner-in-charge, New York office, WilmerHale.

“Winston & Strawn remains committed to providing volunteers and resources to support the work of the Asylum Application Help Center,” said Angela A. Smedley, partner and chair of the pro bono committee, Winston & Strawn. “New York City has long been a sanctuary city that stands for human rights, access, and opportunity. We consider it part of our duty as New Yorkers to uphold these core values, especially at a time of crisis.”

“Giving access to legal help is one of the most important supports that we can provide to arriving immigrants in our city,” said Camille Mackle, executive director, Immigrant ARC. “Without those resources, individuals have no chance of understanding the rules that they must follow and the steps that they must take to be able to fully integrate into our communities. We are grateful to our members and partners that have stepped up to help the most vulnerable in our communities, and we know that the time, resources, and money spent will only serve as an investment in our future cultural, civic, and economic strength. We look forward to continuing to partner with the city and our nonprofit sector to ensure that our newest neighbors receive the welcome and dignity everyone coming here deserves, while continuing to build towards a system of universal representation that provides support for all. With numbers of arrivals at the border significantly down recently, we have an opportunity to look back on the last year, to take in the lessons learned, and to develop systems and solutions that will last us for generations to come.”

“Our immigration system makes it almost impossible for asylum seekers to apply for asylum without help,” said Angela Fernandez, executive director, Safe Passage Project. “Safe Passage Projectapplauds the City of New York for its innovative pro se asylum filing model, which has already helped hundreds of asylum seekers make the legal claims to which they are entitled under our laws. This asylum clinic model is a befitting response from our city, a place of welcome for immigrants, and a place that cares about its neighbors.”

“We applaud individual members of the private bar, as well as the many institutional partners of our affiliated organizations, that have stepped up to assist our city — and especially so many people in great need — during this challenging time,” said Bret Parker, executive director, New York City Bar Association; and Kurt M. Denk, executive director, City Bar Justice Center.


Media Contact
(212) 788-2958