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Activist teaches out of her basement to help New York asylum seekers

Nuala O'Doherty Naranjo has launched new classes to help asylum seekers prepare for the complicated process.
Activist teaches out of her basement to help New York asylum seekers
Posted at 10:31 PM, Jul 06, 2023

The migrant crisis in New York City has pushed local organizations and even residents to step in and help.

A few months ago, we introduced you to a community activist who has turned her home basement into an immigration center.

Due to the high demand from migrants showing up at her house seeking help with asylum applications, she's taking things to a whole other level.

Nuala O'Doherty Naranjo hast started a class to help families going through the asylum process.

Right at noon, a group of 25 recently arrived asylum-seekers sit down for a special lesson.

"Every day there was more and more and more, and the lines have got longer and longer," said O'Doherty Naranjo.

O'Doherty Naranjo began providing free services to asylum seekers back in January from her home in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens.

We have all these great new neighbors, but they really need help in filing this first process, which is filing for asylum. it's not terribly difficult, but it's in English," said O'Doherty Naranjo.

She speaks Spanish because she learned it through her husband, an immigrant from Ecuador.

"With that asylum application, 150 days later, they can apply for a social security number, and they can start being productive neighbors who are part of this vibrant city," said O'Doherty Naranjo.

SEE MORE: Meet the woman who turned her basement into an immigration center

New York faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

According to city officials, over 100,000 people now live in homeless shelters across the Big Apple, and migrants make up more than 50,000 of them.

Meaning, for the first time, they form a majority within the city's homeless shelter system.

"Look, the city's overwhelmed. I really think they're doing the best they can to help our newest neighbors," said O'Doherty Naranjo.

However, this former prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney's office says the city's resources are stretched and more help is needed.

The line outside her home starts hours before classes begin, two times a day, three days a week.

"I try to help, because my parents sent me to school outside my community so, I learned Spanish at the university," said Erika Guamangate, an indigenous migrant from Ecuador.

Even asylum-seekers like Guamangate have become volunteers.

Guamangate helps other indigenous asylum-seekers who don't speak Spanish or English.

"I am from the province of Cotopaxi and am part of the indigenous Panzaleo people. There are many people from the countryside who have never lived in the city and don't speak Spanish. so, I try to explain and translate the asylum process steps to them," said Guamangate.

As for O'Doherty Naranjo, she says she hopes to see more people step in and help in this time of great need.

"A person can volunteer for four hours and change a family's life forever," said O'Doherty Naranjo.

So far, she says she has helped over a thousand families fill out asylum applications.

SEE MORE: Upcoming US citizenship test changes worry those with limited English

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