fbpx Here’s What FEMA Funding Means for One Nonprofit Helping New Migrants - Documented - Documented

Here’s What FEMA Funding Means for One Nonprofit Helping New Migrants

When FEMA announced last week that they would be awarding $289,000 in funding to Jericho Road Community Health Centers this year, it came as a surprise to the Buffalo-based nonprofit’s own staff.

Even though they’d received funding from FEMA in the past and generally kept in good contact with the agency, they hadn’t specifically applied for any funds this round.

The money is just a small part of the $641 million that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has promised to dole out to entities across the nation as a way of off-setting costs of providing services to migrants. But it will go a long way upstate, where Jericho Road says it will likely earmark the funds for services rendered to asylum seekers coming out of detention.

“We are thrilled. This funding feels like an acknowledgment and support for the work we are doing,” said Anna Mongo, Jericho Road’s chief of programs. “From where we stand, the only way the situation for asylum seekers will get better is through expansive federal immigration reform. Without that, local community organizations will continue to eat the cost.”

Also Read: NYC Relief Organizations Thrive on Volunteers and Donations to Help Newly Arrived Migrants

Out of the total list of 55 entities named as funding recipients by FEMA, there are two other New York-based ones: the NYC Office of Management and Budget, set to receive $38.9 million — the largest sum awarded to a single entity — and the Brooklyn-based Campaign Against Hunger, which will be expecting $512,000. Neither entity responded to Documented’s request for comment by the time of publication.

Founded in 1984, Christian-based Jericho Road runs what they say is among the largest asylum seeker shelters in the country with more than 100 beds, and offered 1,800 individuals in-person services in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, according to their latest annual report.

Their shelter, Vive, also houses refugee claimants waiting for appointments and interviews with the Canada Border Services Agency, in addition to asylum seekers. 

It used to primarily serve short-term residents who needed a place to gather their documents together before eventually making their own way to Canada via the Roxham Road crossing, an irregular border passage. Things changed, however, when that passage was closed in 2023. 

Residents started needing to stay for much longer periods as they worked through legal processes and got work authorization – sometimes for 18 months or more. And asylum seekers started flooding into New York State, their numbers at the Buffalo shelter also rose, with Jericho Road starting to welcome many more people who had first passed through New York City, stretching their capacity.

Despite the good news of the FEMA funding boost, big challenges still lie ahead for the organization. Currently, the most intractable is a lack of legal services

“Our legal services partners are trying to build that capacity, but there is not enough funding nor enough attorneys funneling into immigration legal practice,” explained Mongo. “Legal care is not only important for [residents’] ability to remain safe and for their peace of mind – it is also the catalyst for folks being able to support themselves and start planning for their future.”

She voiced hope about the potential passage of the proposed Access to Representation Act, which would provide free immigration attorneys for those who cannot afford one, the way people charged with crimes who cannot afford their own lawyer are provided with legal representation. 

“Building a system that provides more free attorneys for asylum seekers would be transformational for our clients,” she said. “It’s not just about more money. We need to build infrastructure so that more attorneys pick this area of law in the first place and are not concerned that their job will be gone once the funding runs out.”

Documented Advertising