NEW YORK (PIX11) — More than 67,000 migrants have been bused to New York City — over 4,300 last week alone — and they can’t apply for employment until five months after they file an asylum application.
Project Rousseau, a nonprofit that works with migrants, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art joined forces to host an asylum declaration workshop.
While the children of asylum seekers made toy airplanes and boats in the room next door at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, their parents were beginning the complicated and often painful process of beginning to seek asylum.
These families are from Venezuela, Colombia, Afghanistan, and West Africa.
“The reason we are so grateful to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is that writing the asylum declaration is so difficult, so it is great the children have the art projects,” Andrew Heinrich, founder and director of Project Rousseau, told PIX11 News.
Argelia Gimenez fled Venezuela with her two daughters, her nephew, and her brother. She said the family was engaged in peaceful protests against the Venezuelan government and then faced persecution.
Speaking through translator Kimberly Ramos, Gimenez said, “They started to get a lot of different threats. Her brothers were taken to jail because of the peaceful protests.”
Working with pro bono lawyers volunteering for Project Rousseau, these families are at the beginning of what is usually a very long immigration process to seek political asylum. It can take many months and even years.
“In reality, that’s just where their journey begins,” Heinrich told PIX11 News. “Their journey will take years from here to ensure that they are free from the persecution they were escaping from.”
A long-time Project Rousseau volunteer, Alejandro Zarate, added, “The kids have been great with the overall resources from the Met, everything went pretty swell.”
If you’d like to find out more about volunteer opportunities, go to projectrousseau.org