Immigrants’ Use of New York City Programs, Services, and Benefits: Examining the Impact of Fear and Other Barriers to Access

Daniela Alulema and Jacquelyn Pavilon
Date of Publication: 
January, 2022
Source Organization: 
Center for Migration Studies

New York City is a “welcoming city” that encourages “all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status” toaccess the public benefits and services for which they qualify (NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs or“MOIA” 2021a). Moreover, it invests significant resources in educating immigrant communities on this corecommitment and its lack of participation in federal immigration enforcement activities. However, this reportby the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) finds that immigrants in New York City still facesignificant barriers to accessing public benefits and services.

The report is based on CMS research that examined immigrant fear and other barriers in three general areas:the use of public benefits, with a particular focus on the public charge rule; the use of public health services;and access to law enforcement and the courts. The report documents how Trump-era immigration policiesperpetuated fear among immigrant communities, in the context of other barriers to accessing services andbenefits, and why its detrimental impacts have persisted and outlived the Trump administration.

The research included semi-structured interviews with 75 immigrants across all five boroughs of New YorkCity and two focus groups with immigrants in both English and Spanish. The interviews documented theprevalence and impact of fear and other factors that impede (and facilitate) immigrants’ use of publicbenefits and services. The respondents were from 30 countries across all regions of the world and hadvaried legal statuses and lengths of stay in the United States. The CMS research team also interviewed 16social service providers from community-based organizations (CBOs) and New York City agencies, includingthe Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) and the Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services (HRA), and eight healthcare providers and social workers from the city’s publichospital system, NYC Health + Hospitals, who worked with immigrants across the city.

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Alulema, D., & Pavilon, J. (2022). Immigrants’ Use of New York City Programs, Services, and Benefits: Examining the Impact of Fear and Other Barriers to Access. Center for Migration Studies.