2021 Advocacy Letters & Statements

Support California Legislation for $8 Million Case Management Allocation for Asylees

June 15, 2021 – Bill 1368

On behalf of the refugee and immigrant communities we serve, We Are All America, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), International Rescue Committee, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) CA, HIAS, International  Institute of LA, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles – Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service (IRIS), Home for Refugees, OXFAM America,  and the signatories to this letter—immigrant advocates and service providers supporting the California Welcomes initiative—respectfully ask for your consideration of a one-time, eight million dollar expenditure to support a two-year project that will provide an Enhanced Services Program for Asylees (ESPA) to ensure asylees receive culturally competent and responsive case management for up to 90 days.

Asylum is a type of legal protection granted to people who come to the United States but are unable to return to their home country.  A grant of asylum is made to a person who, if he or she returns home, will face persecution due to “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion,” the same standard refugees must meet.  Unlike refugees, who seek status from outside the United States, asylum seekers begin their process at the  U.S. border or within the U.S. Asylum is not just a reflection of the American value of welcoming people fleeing war, violence and persecution. It is an established human right, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Prior to 2017, the U.S granted asylum to an average of about 20,000 people every year. But in recent years grants of asylum have increased and, with a surge in asylum applications at the border, those increases are likely to be exponential.  What isn’t widely known is that unlike newly-resettled refugees—who are widely dispersed throughout the country—most new asylees are in California. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of granted asylum applicants increased from 26,199 to 46,508, an increase of 56 percent between the three years. In 2019, California was home to 34 percent of all new asylees; New Jersey, the state with the next highest number, with just 9.3 percent.

Every year, over 9,000 people get affirmative asylum status in our state, with a path to citizenship and eligibility for a wide range of benefits, including Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and Covered California. Unfortunately, because of the absence of adequate support and a culturally responsive program and despite profound need, most new asylees do not receive those benefits. Unlike refugees who upon arriving are assigned a caseworker who ensures they are connected with the benefits for which they are eligible, asylees are left adrift. For refugees, case management is life-changing.  It lowers the risk of adversity, increases the pace of integration, and shortens the time it takes for a refugee to build a new foundation.  A wealth of research has demonstrated both the benefits of case management and the resulting value of refugees’ contributions to diversity, the economy, and the social fabric.  Connecting refugees with social services has proved to be essential to their achieving self sufficiency.  California Welcomes believes asylees should get that same opportunity.  Asylees have the right to access the same services and benefits available to refugees, yet are left to fend for themselves, with no caseworker to help navigate the often byzantine social-service network.

ESPA will put a stop to that inequity. ESPA will ensure that needy asylees receive culturally appropriate case management services for up to 90 days after the grant of asylum and with it access to all the benefits to which they are lawfully entitled.  Case managers will advocate and guide asylees through the complicated benefits system, and will also provide cultural orientation, community connections, English language training, and job placement support.  Since this is the same case management model provided to resettled refugees, California’s network of 18 refugee resettlement agencies will manage program services, ensuring asylees get the support they need no matter where they are in the state.  The resettlement agencies have years of experience providing the very case management that is needed, they also have the infrastructures needed to conduct the program and the cultural competencies to make sure each asylee is treated with dignity, respect, and care.  As a result, asylees will be connected to the much-needed services, better prepared to contribute to their communities, and better equipped to succeed as new Americans.

No other state has a program like this. With the ESPA, we can immeasurably improve the lives of asylees in our state, be at the forefront of a new service to new Californians and take the next opportunity to lead the nation, ensuring human dignity for all immigrants and reaffirming what we all know to be true:  California Welcomes.

Thank you for your consideration.  Should you have any questions, please contact Joseph Villela at jvillela@chirla.org; Anahita Panahi at anahita@partnershipfornewamericans.org


Catholic Charities San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo Counties, et al

*Sent to California State Legislature