Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP are among the BigLaw firms that plan to contribute pro bono assistance to asylum seekers in New York City at a new legal center.
Attorneys with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP also plan to work at the Asylum Application Help Center in the American Red Cross' Greater New York headquarters, according to an announcement Tuesday by New York City, which is coordinating the effort.
The lawyers are expected to supervise application assistants, who will work directly with those who have entered the United States in recent months and are looking to file asylum petitions, according to the announcement.
Petitioning for asylum generally starts the clock for applicants to receive temporary authorization to work, but the petition typically must be filed within one year of an individual's initial entry into the United States.
"Simpson Thacher has a long-standing commitment to providing legal services to migrants fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries," said Josh Levine, co-chair of the firm's pro bono committee, in a statement Tuesday. "We stand ready to help the city with the services needed to help these children and adults apply for asylum."
Prospective applicants must schedule an appointment at the center, where interpreters are also expected to be on hand to assist with the process, according to the announcement.
New York also plans to allocate $5 million toward efforts by organizations such as Lutheran Social Services, African Services Committee and the Pro Se Plus Project that intend to assist prospective applicants with how they can represent themselves in legal proceedings, according to the announcement.
"Cleary Gottlieb is committed to assisting vulnerable asylum-seekers located in New York City to apply for relief, and to working alongside our partner organizations in these efforts to leverage our long-standing experience and expertise in humanitarian immigration law," said Michael A. Gerstenzang, the firm's managing partner, in a statement Tuesday.
New York's efforts come as bipartisan lawmakers urge President Joe Biden to use his executive powers to expedite work permits for asylum seekers from Latin American countries, saying a statutorily required waiting period is placing a strain on U.S. businesses experiencing labor shortages.
U.S. Reps. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., and María Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., asked Biden in a letter earlier this month to give migrants from Latin American countries such as Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua deferred enforced departure and temporary protected status so they can quickly find work.
The lawmakers said the 180 days asylum applicants are required to wait before applying for work authorization and the current backlog of asylum claims are preventing hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from legally working in the U.S. and benefiting from labor protections.