New York Is the Nation’s Most ‘Hostile’ Place to Apply for Asylum

Tens of thousands of migrants have flocked to New York City in recent years, seeking one of the few legal pathways to permanent residency in the United States.

Many of the tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived in New York City over the last several years say they share the same hope: to be granted asylum so they can legally stay in the United States permanently.

But while New York is a beacon for many migrants, with a law guaranteeing shelter and pro-immigration political traditions, its asylum office is also the toughest place to win a claim in the country, records show.

Even before the recent influx of border crossers, New York’s federal asylum office granted the lowest share of asylum claims among the nearly dozen such offices around the country, according to a 2022 analysis by the nonprofit Human Rights First. In 2020, when 28 percent of asylum claims were granted nationally, 5 percent of decisions in New York were approvals.

The asylum process was never meant to be a catchall program to allow most people arriving in the United States to remain. To be granted asylum, applicants must prove they have suffered persecution or have a “well-founded fear” of it in their home country on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The approval process is arduous by design.

But asylum offices in New York and elsewhere have been flooded with applications since 2022, as migration has surged and those who arrive here pursue one of the few pathways to staying in the United States legally. So far this year, the New York office has already received nearly 25,000 claims.

The stated mission of asylum officers — who work for the nonenforcement wing of the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services — is to identify people who qualify as refugees under U.S. and international law.

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