Our Voices

A state-federal partnership to help immigrants

An efficient, fair immigration system won’t come from more detention centers and faster deportations that Congress is considering in its current budget bill.

Writing in The Washington Post, our VP of U.S. Advocacy & Litigation Anthony Enriquez highlights how New York City is piloting an innovative approach to migrant reception – one that the federal government could learn from if it’s serious about effective and orderly immigration policy.

New York Mayor Eric Adams’s suit against bus companies transporting immigrants from Texas to New York is the last-ditch effort of a man whose supposed political allies have let him down [“N.Y. mayor sues bus companies that transported migrants to city,” news, Jan. 6]. The reimbursement for services to asylum seekers should rightfully come from the federal government.

New York isn’t just temporarily helping asylum seekers get on their feet. It’s enhancing the efficiency of the federal immigration system. By helping immigrants apply for asylum and work authorization and facilitating access to English classes, medical services and identity documents, New York is funding services that are known to result in 99 percent compliance with court hearings and other check-ins with federal authorities. As of October, the city-funded Asylum Application Help Center had assisted with filing more than 5,600 applications, helping on average more than 1,100 people a month since its creation.

New York City’s efforts could be a model for federal-state cooperation that could help reduce the notorious backlogs in immigration courts. Because there’s no right to legal counsel in immigration court, judges are forced to waste precious court time and resources explaining the basics of applying for asylum to immigrants without attorneys.

But instead of providing financial aid for these innovative programs, President Biden is doubling down on funding for harsh deterrence measures, including mandatory detention and summary expulsion of asylum seekers. In 1996, President Bill Clinton also bet that stiffened penalties would deter immigration. Almost 30 years and record numbers of arriving immigrants later, isn’t it time the federal government learns from its mistakes?