What is RIF Asylum Support?

RIF is a welcoming entry point for refugees who have recently arrived in New York City, and are seeking asylum. RIF provides these individuals with a road map to the asylum process that includes instructions on how to access legal consultations and survival resources (healthcare, housing, food). In partnership with Brooklyn Grange (the world’s largest rooftop soil farm), RIF offers a paid fellowship for asylum seekers in urban agriculture.

Learn more about our programs!

Why was RIF established?

RIF was was established in 2006 to fill a void: the a lack of support and guidance for asylum seekers when they first arrive. The lack of government funding has created a vacuum of services, which is in turn filled by unscrupulous immigration practitioners who take advantage of asylum seekers’ ignorance and vulnerability. Since the time that we stepped in to address that void, RIF has served over one thousand asylum seekers.

Learn more about why we welcome refugees!

Who is an asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is a person who enters the U.S. with a visa (various types), and applies for legal status upon arriving on the basis of past persecution OR a fear of future persecution. These individuals are often forced to flee their native country rapidly to seek protection, and therefore often arrive unprepared for life in NYC with little to no information on the asylum process.

Why do asylum seekers flee their homelands?

The majority of asylum seekers who seek RIF’s guidance were political activists or journalists who spoke out against human rights violations and faced incarceration and torture by their own governments/majority groups. Many have been persecuted because of their sexual orientation and/or their work related to LGBT rights.

Where do they come from?

Most have made their way here from Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

How do they find RIF?

Asylum seekers find us through referrals from other agencies in the city such as IRC and Catholic Charities, or through former clients. They are increasingly reaching us via social media and our website.

What do asylum seekers need when they first arrive to the city, and how does RIF address these needs?

Are asylum seekers a threat to U.S. security? What is RIF position’s on this issue?

The recent terrorists attacks on U.S. and European soil have led many to question the safety of admitting refugees into the U.S. As a result, the Refugee Resettlement process, which historically garnered political consensus, has come under attack for being too lax in its vetting process (regardless of the fact that the U.S. vetting process is the most intensive of its kind).

The government’s lack of support for asylum seekers, as opposed to resettled refugees, indicates a preference for vetting first, and providing refuge second. While we support a rigorous screening process, we firmly believe that the asylum process serves a critical purpose: it provides refuge to individuals who are in immediate harm, who are not in the position to be rescued by the refugee resettlement process. Asylum is meant for those who are personally targeted due to their identity, which means that they are not necessarily living in a war torn country where mass amounts of people are displaced into refugee camps. Asylum seekers are people who often become endangered very suddenly, by the results of an election or a sudden act of violence, so they do not have the ability to await assistance in their home country where there is no source of protection. Therefore, we believe that asylum seekers should receive more support upon being admitted into this country under the current convention. We are strongly in favor of registration centers that would screen incoming asylum seekers as we are of welcome centers that would guide newcomers through the process of seeking asylum (as RIF strives to do). These centers would help ensure that we know who is entering our country as early as possible. We also advocate for government-funded support for asylum seekers awaiting their decisions, so that like resettled refugees, asylum seekers can get back on their feet with a reasonable level of assistance.

The ultimate outcome of the oppositional stance taken by the government, as we have seen domestically with the influx of Central American minors, and globally as Syrians risk their lives to reach Europe, is dually faceted. On one side, refugees are unassisted and suffer irrecoverable hardship, and on the other side, security is impaired as asylum seekers are practically living in the shadows until their asylum interview.  In other words, being unprepared and unwilling to confront the issue is dangerous to both sides of the equation.

At RIF, we strongly believe that it is impossible to hold back the tide of the desperate. Furthermore, we believe that these individuals deserve the support of any nation that can both afford to extend a hand, and also continues to be instrumental in the destabilization that forces people from their homes.