Understanding exit reasons of asylum-seeking families from HELP USA shelters and their implications

In this brief (link), HELP Research explores why and how asylum-seeking families exit the shelter system. The number of asylum seekers in HELP USA shelters declined by 27 percent from August to December 2023. This population is concentrated in two sanctuary sites, Anchor Inn (Queens) and Days Inn (Brooklyn),  as well as Morris family shelter in the Bronx. The brief discusses how the decline in the sanctuary site population may have been attributed to better employment opportunities after the federal government extended temporary protected status to Venezuelan nationals, which permitted such persons to work in the United States. Approximately one-third of Anchor Inn clients in September were young working-age adults of Venezuelan origin.
The population at non-sanctuary sites declined by nearly 30 percent due to 16 families at Morris shelter “timing out” of the asylum process. Based on data from a survey conducted at Morris, HEL Research analyzed factors that statistically correlated with the specific outcome of a respondent having applied for asylum. The objective was to help frontline staff decide how to allocate the time and resources that are necessary to coordinate with authorities to ensure that eligible new migrants can apply for asylum and asylum applicants can continue the asylum process.

The team found that Morris’s respondents were more likely to have applied for asylum if they had been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). They were also more likely to have applied for asylum if they had received free legal assistance upon arriving in NYC. 

The findings indicate the need for city officials to work with providers, like HELP USA, to identify the extent to which migrants entering the city were detained by ICE and, secondly, coordinate processes of shelter entry and asylum process mandates with the city’s volunteer attorneys to expedite asylum cases particular to both conditions.

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