Announcing New Grants to Support New York City Asylum Seekers

Tuesday February 21, 2023

The WES Mariam Assefa Fund is excited to announce $230,000 in grants to seven New York-based organizations that support asylum seekers. The funding will enable these groups to strengthen their work on the ground responding to the significant increase in asylum seekers arriving in New York over the past year. 

The recipients are Adama Bah, Artists Athletes Activists, Her Migrant Hub, Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC), RUSA LGBTQ+, Team TLC NYC, and Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid. Many of these organizations are welcoming migrants at the transportation hubs where they arrive, providing individuals and their families with immediate services once they enter the city. 

Since last spring, nearly 44,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City. The majority of migrants arrived from Latin America, including many Venezuelans fleeing an unprecedented economic crisis.  African and Caribbean migrants who had been living and working in regional economies disrupted by the pandemic sought asylum as well. As of January 25, approximately 27,800 asylum seekers were in the city’s shelter system and Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERRC), overwhelming the city’s ability to provide aid. In the 10 months since the crisis began, many community-based organizations have stepped up to address the gap in services.  

Photo courtesy: Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid 

Grants from the WES Mariam Assefa Fund will increase asylum seekers’ access to basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter, as well as legal advice and mental health services. Several grantee organizations also provide support tailored to the needs of migrants who often face intersectional barriers to such support, including women, LGBTQ+, and Black asylum seekers. Here is a closer look at the critical work the Fund’s grantee partners are leading: 

Artists Athletes Activists is a volunteer-based organization taking action and calling attention to issues around health, fitness, wellness, and social justice in underserved communities in New York City. With support from the Fund, the organization’s Emergency Response Team is receiving migrants arriving from Texas via the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and area airports and providing migrants and asylum seekers with cooked meals, MetroCards, clothing, and shelter. 

Adama Bah, a community organizer, serves asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants. She is responding to migrants’ immediate and basic needs, connecting them with temporary housing, referrals to medical and mental health services, and information on enrolling in local schools.  

Her Migrant Hub is a community-driven group focused on increasing access to and utilization of health care and mental health services for women asylum seekers in New York City. Funding will support the organization’s Creating Sanctuary project, an initiative providing care through a trauma-informed lens and developing several tools to create a more welcoming atmosphere for newcomers and help them navigate the city’s legal, housing, health, and social service systems. 

I-ARC is a coalition of legal advocates that works to increase access to justice and legal counsel for all immigrants in New York state. I-ARC is working to bolster its Friend of the Court program, through which legal practitioners will ensure that unrepresented immigrants understand their proceedings, advise the court of information helpful to individuals’ cases, and facilitate attendance at future hearings.  

RUSA is a network of LGBTQ+ immigrants and allies from the former Soviet Union, including asylum seekers from Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, and other former Soviet states. Following the conflict in Ukraine, which has caused mass displacement and an increase in the number of refugees, RUSA is working to provide referral services among Russian-speaking LGBTQ+ people, including where to seek housing, health care, cash support, and workforce development services in New York City.  

Team TLC NYC is an entirely volunteer-run organization with a mission of enabling compassionate and respectful support for asylum seekers and immigrants who are seeking safety and security in the U.S. With support from the Fund, Team TLC NYC is providing food, clothing, and shelter to asylum seekers arriving at the Port Authority and fostering connections to family and sponsors where possible.  

Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid is helping Venezuelan forced migrants and asylum seekers in New York City. The organization is enhancing its legal orientation program to provide in-person and online legal workshops and disseminate printed and audiovisual material to keep migrants up to date with the rapid changes that may occur in immigration laws and regulations. 

As a New York City-based organization with strong connections to partners locally and within networks supporting immigrants and refugees, WES and the Fund are well-positioned to support these organizations as they respond to the evolving crisis on the ground. Moments like these highlight why it’s so important for funders to adopt flexible funding approaches in order to respond quickly to change in their communities, and to center the knowledge and input of the field and grantee partners. The WES Mariam Assefa Fund is proud to partner with these seven groups and looks forward to sharing their progress.

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