$1.5M in funding to help newly-arrived Haitian New Yorkers 

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City Council Member Farah Louis at City Hall.
Office of Council Member Farah N. Louis

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) Commissioner Raquel Batista on Wednesday announced that the City will provide $1,500,000 in funding to help newly-arrived Haitian New Yorkers access immigration legal assistance and social services.

“This investment is part of the City’s continued commitment in responding to Haiti’s compounding crises over the past few months,” Batista said. 

“We are excited to work with CBOs (Community-based Organizations) staffed by Haitian New Yorkers, and located immediately within our City’s Haitian communities, who provide daily support and services to their fellow community members including those who have recently resettled in New York City,” she added.

J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, said that while Haitian migrants continue to face an uncertain future, “it is imperative we continue to work with CBOs who have been leaders in helping this community.

“I am looking forward to how this partnership will help expand the City’s reach to the Haitian community and connect them to critical resources for their resettlement process,” he said. 

“As a proud Haitian immigrant, I understand the importance of prioritizing the needs of Haitian asylum seekers.” said Magalie Desroches Austin, senior advisor and director of the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises. “I am glad to see the administration supporting Haitian resettlement services through Haitian run CBOs and hope that more municipalities follow New York City’s lead.”

Batista said that the funds will be distributed to community-based partners that will provide linguistically- and culturally-responsive case management and immigration legal services to newly-arrived Haitian New Yorkers.

She said case managers will work with newly-arrived Haitians to determine eligibility for benefits and connect them to resources and services.

Batista said legal services will include assistance in accessing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other humanitarian forms of relief, removal and deportation defense, and immigration legal services capacity-building among local CBOs and pro bono attorneys.

Efforts will also include an anti-fraud and information messaging campaign across community and ethnic media, Batista said.

In recent months, she said there has been a heavy increase in Haitian arrivals to the US due in part to natural disasters and political upheaval in Haiti.

“Many of these new arrivals have resettled in the state of New York, which has the second-largest population of foreign-born Haitians in the United States,” Batista said. “This investment will provide the supports needed so that community-based partners can help address the critical and social service needs of newly-arrived Haitians and better understand additional challenges anticipated over the coming months.

Commissioner Batista said the following organizations, most of which are based in Brooklyn, will receive funding to provide case management, legal and language services, building on the work they have been conducting since the migrant influx began: Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York; Caribbean Women’s Health Association; Diaspora Community Services; Flanbwayan Literacy Project; Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP); Haitian American Community Coalition (HCC); Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees; and Life of Hope. 

Batista said the Haitian Studies Institute of CUNY Brooklyn College will partner with MOIA and all involved in the initiative “to ensure services and public messages are delivered in a culturally- and linguistically-responsive manner.”

“After traveling across several miles and months to seek refuge in the US, thousands of Haitian New Yorkers need critical resources and supportive services to recover from the emotional, mental and physical toll of this ordeal,” said Haitian American New York City Member Farah N. Louis.

“The allocation of $1.5 million towards trusted community-based organizations will be instrumental in bolstering the extraordinary work already underway to empower, equip and engage these families,” said the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the predominantly 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “We are removing societal barriers to legal assistance and social services by working together to ensure that our newest neighbors have a fighting chance to remain in the US, where they can pursue new opportunities and no longer have to live in fear. 

“I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, MOIA Commissioner Raquel Batista, and Pastor A.R. Bernard for their support in expanding access to much-needed assistance,” added Louis, who met many migrants in Del Rio, TX, who, she said, shared their traumatic experiences with a small delegation of community leaders and service providers from Brooklyn.

“While we were on the ground, we saw firsthand the mistreatment they (Haitian migrants) endured,” Louis continued. “Now is the time for us to come together as a city of immigrants – in faith and love – to take the necessary action and help one another.” 

New York State Assembly Member Bichotte Hermelyn, another daughter of Haitian immigrants, who chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said that by providing aid to displaced Haitians who have settled in New York, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is “demonstrating a commitment not only to racial justice but to human rights. 

“Immigrants built our nation; and, by ensuring they have the resources needed to resettle, we are investing in the future success of our city and state,” said Bichotte Hermelyn, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “I look forward to partnering with the organization selected by MOIA and thank the Mayor (Bill de Blasio) for his continued commitment to making our city more just and equitable in our recovery.”

State Sen. Kevin Parker, who represents the largely Caribbean 21st Senate District in Brooklyn, applauded the Mayor’s office for allocating funds “to ensure we support Haitians seeking refuge in this city. 

“I join advocates and elected officials in supporting this call to provide Temporary Protected Status for Haitians living in the United States and other needed services,” he said. “We must work to protect our Haitian community.”

Mario Russell, director of Immigrant and Refugee Services of Catholic Charities Community Services in Manhattan, said Catholic Charities is “excited to partner” with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs on the Haitian Response Initiative, “which brings much needed outreach and legal assistance to New York City’s Haitian families, children and workers, as well as many others, especially those recently resettled here from our southern borers.  

“This innovative program will bring together the cultural, legal pro bono, and capacity-building and public education experts in our Haitian communities who are ready to help migrants seeking protection and safe haven,” he said.  “For hundreds of years, New York City has been at the center of this nation’s welcome in dignity and respect to immigrants in need. We are pleased to continue this tradition today through the Haitian Response Initiative, as we know it will be part of what builds this City and a more just and compassionate society.”

Elsie Saint Louis, HAUP’s Haitian executive director, said her organization is “grateful for the financial support from MOIA, which will allow HAUP to dedicate a full staff person to respond to the needs of our newly-arrived brothers and sisters from the border.

“We look forward to continued collaboration with MOIA and our sister community-based organizations,” he said. 

Another Haitian, Carine Jocelyn, chief executive officer of the Diaspora Community Service, was elated that the Haitian migrant community will be supported during “a most challenging time.”

“Together, with a cohort of experienced organizations, we look forward to providing direct services in assisting in whatever way possible,” she said.  “Thank you to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for coordinating this process.”

Ninaj Raoul, executive director of the Brooklyn-based Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, said Haitian families who entered at the US-Mexico border have faced “a long treacherous route, where many of them suffered layers of trauma. 

“This city funding is a step in mitigating the harm caused by racist federal immigration policies that re-traumatize them by denying work authorization and social services, and keeping them in fear of deportation,” she said.  “While we are working for more humane immigration policies, we appreciate the initial funding to provide immediate support to newly-arrived Haitian families.”  

Darnell Benoit, director of the Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project, said the COVID-19 pandemic has “highlighted the critical needs of immigrant students and their families and English Language Learners in NYC.  

“Newcomer Haitian students in the public schools need long-term investment, academic and social-emotional support to succeed,” Benoit said. “We are thankful that the City is responding to the needs of the community.” 

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella organization comprising over 200 immigration advocacy group in New York State, said Haitian families have already faced “unimaginable traumas in both their home country and in their journey towards asylum here in the US. 

“This funding couldn’t come at a more critical time to support these families to integrate more fully into the City but also to find the safety, stability and community they so desperately need,” he said. 

“We thank the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs for recognizing and meeting the needs of newcomer Haitian families to New York City, especially because our federal immigration system continues to fail them and so many other asylum seekers,” Awawdeh added.

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