Housing offered in Jersey City to asylum seekers and asylees
JERSEY CITY — People who have other countries and have begun the legal process of seeking asylum in the U.S. now have a new housing resource in New Jersey.
An eight-bed house in Journal Square is being rented by Church World Service from St. Paul’s Center of Caring, on the property of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, according to Immigration and Refugee Program director Courtney Madsen of Church World Service Jersey City.
Madsen said the people her organization works with are at one of two points in their lives after arriving in America. The first are those granted asylum through the immigration court system — her group has been working with that population for years.
A newer program launched by CWS this past December is helping asylum seekers, who have filed an application stating they want to be considered for the designation, but don't yet have a ruling.
"Every year people come to the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution," the federal government's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services site states. It notes that people who are eligible for asylum may be eligible to stay within the United States, but must apply within one year of arrival.
The legal basis for seeking asylum is fear of persecution over one or more of the following: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
CWS currently has a caseload of 50 in the asylum seeker program, with a waiting list of about 40, Madsen said.
"The majority do not need housing assistance at this time," Madsen said. We are just working with a few in that regard."
The organization has raised several thousand dollars to help those who are utilizing the Jersey City housing facility, and continues to accept donations toward rent and bus passes.
Madsen said there is pretty strong diversity among "asylees," or people who already have been granted legal asylum.
CWS Jersey City has assisted clients from more than 30 countries, with a many from Egypt, Turkey and Cuba, but also from West Africa and Central America.
Madsen said the organization is always searching for qualified legal representation 0— as there are not as many lawyers familiar with the asylum process as there are people seeking asylum.
“The people that we work with, they really want to go through this process right," Madsen said."They want to follow the law, and they really want counsel to help them do that."
Those applying for asylum file a government form "I-589," which is roughly 10 pages in all.
If granted asylum, a person can begin working in the U.S. immediately.
Those seeking asylum can only apply for "employment authorization" 150 days after filing a complete asylum application, while still awaiting a decision on the application.
Madsen said there has been a "warm community response" to this project so far, so she is "very optimistic" about it for the next year.
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