BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Applying for asylum is a lengthy process that requires an application, interview and a court hearing in some cases. There are a few ways to declare asylum and one of them is at the border after arriving on U.S. soil.
“The question really is a legal question today, do they meet the standard of relief to be granted asylum or not? It is actually a hard standard to meet and a lot of them won’t meet it,” Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo and pro-bono immigration attorney, said.
Declaring asylum at the border has been a legal process for decades. Previously, asylum seekers were held at a detention center to await a court hearing. Now, they are being released and border states are transporting the asylum seekers to northern cities.
Rizzo-Choi says asylum seekers have to fill out a lengthy application that requires documents to prove identity and the applicant has to acutely articulate how they are being persecuted and provide evidence, which is a significant burden to prove. Most asylum cases will end up in immigration court with a trial in front of a judge.
“You have to demonstrate that you are someone who is outside of his or her homeland who cannot return home because you have been persecuted or you fear future persecution on account of your race, religion, nationality, political opinion or particular social group,” Rizzo-Choi explained.
After applying for asylum, migrants wait for their application to be reviewed, and in some cases, wait for their case to be heard in court, which can take years because of a backlog of cases and a shortage of judges to hear them. Asylum seekers can apply for work authorization and begin working as soon as 180 days after filing the application.
“Those two things are also factoring in where people are in their various states of can they pay for themselves, can they support themselves, etcetera,” Rizzo-Choi added.
Asylum seekers not granted asylum will be deported, while those who are granted asylum can stay permanently and begin a path to citizenship.
“Our immigration system needs to be overhauled. There needs to be a better way to deal with people that are coming in that need humanitarian relief that are asking for that to adjudicate their case faster. It’s not reasonable to say, ‘Okay, wait five years’,” Rizzo-Choi said.
While the process is lengthy, Rizzo-Choi says Western New York has been home to asylum seekers for decades.
News 4 is expecting to learn more about the Cheektowaga hotels hosting asylum seekers on Tuesday at the town board meeting after a new building inspector report is released.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.