COVID-19 resources for asylum seekers

Over the past several weeks, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) staff have been working to share information and resources related to COVID-19 (the coronavirus) with members of our online communities — over 4,000 asylum seekers across more than 40 states. We are sharing some of those resources here in hopes that they will be useful to you during these difficult times. Post updated on August 17, 2020. 

Community Support Resources

Health Resources

Unemployment Benefits

  • In general, immigrants with work authorization can qualify for unemployment benefits, but the rules and requirements of every state vary. To search for information specific to your state, visit this State-by-State Unemployment Benefits Finder, from CareerOneStop.
  • See this post for a list of local organizations that may be able to help navigate the process.

Immigration Court Hearings

  • For people who are not detained and not in Mexico:
    • Some immigration courts have opened. You can see which immigration courts are open on the immigration court’s website.
    • The immigration court automated hotline will likely not be updated while the courts are closed, but we still recommend checking it regularly by calling 1-800-898-7180. And you should receive a new hearing date by mail.
    • If you have a hearing, the courts have imposed new rules to avoid spreading coronavirus, for example: to wear a mask, and to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart from other people. It is important to follow these rules because you could be denied entrance to the court if you do not. If you are not allowed into the court for your hearing, you should communicate with your lawyer or call the court immediately.
  • For people in Mexico awaiting their hearings under the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) program, all immigration court hearings continue to be canceled. The U.S. government has announced criteria for how they will decide when to restart MPP hearings, and said that they will notify the public at least 15 days before restarting MPP hearings. For information about your next hearing date, you should call the automated hotline, 1-800-898-7180.
  • For people in detention, immigration court hearings are continuing. See these Guides from SPLC for information about requesting release for individuals in immigration detention who are at risk of COVID-19.

USCIS Appointments

  • As of June 4, 2020, USCIS offices started reopening for routine in-person appointments. Check this webpage to see if your office is open. Any canceled appointments will be rescheduled.
  • See USCIS’s website for the latest updates.

ICE or ISAP Check Ins 

  • ICE has announced that in person check ins with ICE and ISAP across the U.S. have been temporarily canceled. Many offices are doing check ins by phone. However, it is important to check the status of your specific office.
  • If you have a check in with ICE or ISAP and you have not received a call from your immigration official, you should call your official directly for more information. If you do not have the direct number, you can try to call your local ICE field office. And if you don’t receive an answer when you call, you should leave a voicemail with your name, phone number, and A number. We recommend that you keep a record of the phone number you called, the date and time of your call, and what the response was.
  • See ICE’s website for the latest updates.
P-EBT: A Benefit for Families
  • The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, or P-EBT, is a public benefit for families whose children have lost access to free or reduced cost food because of school closures due to coronavirus. In general, each eligible child can receive $5.70 per day for each day that school is closed.
  • Families can receive P-EBT regardless of the the immigrant status of the child, and receiving P-EBT should not affect your immigration case.
  • Even though the P-EBT program is federal, it is being implemented by the states. It is still not available in all states, and the details of how to receive it depend on the state. You can call your child’s school to ask for more information.

The CARES Act and Direct Payments

  • On March 27, 2020, the U.S. government passed a stimulus bill in response to COVID-19, called the CARES Act. See Top 5 Things You Need to Know About The COVID19 Stimulus Package from United We Dream.
  • One part of the CARES Act is direct payments from the government to individuals and families. Asylum seekers with a social security number can qualify for the payments if they filed taxes for 2018 or 2019 and can prove that they were present in the United States for sufficient time. To qualify, you must prove that you were present in the United States at least 31 days during 2020 and at least a total of 183 days during 2018, 2019, and 2020. See this article from NBC News for more information.
  • For people who have not yet filed 2019 taxes, the government recommends filing as quickly as possible and before the extended deadline of July 15, 2020. Free tax preparation help may be available through VITA—call 1-800-906-9887 or search online.
  • There are also other parts of the CARES Act. For more in-depth information, including on how these changes affect immigrant communities, see Conozca sus derechos: Cuidado de salud y derechos laborales de las comunidades indocumentadas (Spanish video) from NDLON, La Red, and NILC.
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