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Services for Asylees Must Expand


By Jessie Mabry, Chief Executive Officer
May 2024

California Assembly Bill (AB) 2218 would provide funding to expand the Enhanced Services for Asylees and Vulnerable Noncitizens (ESAVN) program. Recently, this bill was moved to the consent calendar where it awaits committee review.

Opening Doors implemented the ESAVN program from July 2022 to September 2023. This program provides culturally appropriate and responsive case management services to individuals who have recently been granted asylum within the first year following the grant of asylum. Opening Doors served 34 individuals through the ESAVN program.

Asylees do not access benefits and services to which they are entitled

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people seek safety in the U.S. by claiming asylum. Like refugees, asylum seekers are looking for protection from persecution in their home countries due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

While the same legal standards are applied in determining refugee and asylee status, refugee status is determined before refugees arrive in the U.S., whereas asylee status is granted for people that have already entered the country.

Once asylum is granted, asylees become eligible for similar federal public benefits and services as refugees, including benefits and services provided through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and mainstream public benefits such as TANF, SNAP, child-care subsidies, and SSI.

However, asylees generally do not avail themselves to these benefits they are entitled to at the same rates as refugees. While data on asylee participation across all benefits is unavailable, the Migration Policy Institute states that “fewer than 20 percent of the persons granted asylum between FY 2015 and FY 2019 received ORR-funded services in their first year after being granted asylum.”¹

Asylees have net positive impact on our economy

California prides itself on our inclusive values. Welcoming asylees and refugees is a core tenant of these values. And also, welcoming these populations is an investment in our economy.

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report released earlier this year found that refugees and asylees have a net positive impact on our economy.

Over time refugees and asylees contribute more revenue than what the government spends on them. The net fiscal impact of refugees and asylees was estimated to be positive over the [period from 2009-2015], at $123.8 billion. The net fiscal benefit to the federal government was estimated at $31.5 billion, and the net fiscal benefit to state and local governments was estimated at $92.3 billion.²

Supporting asylees through the case management services provided by the ESAVN program combines the best of our Californian values of welcome and inclusivity with an investment in our communities and economy.

ESAVN will continue and strengthen services to asylees

California is home to one of the largest numbers of asylees in the country. Since the program’s implementation, the ESAVN program has supported nearly 2,000 asylees and vulnerable noncitizens.

By expanding the program, organizations like Opening Doors will be able to provide additional support to asylees, ensuring they are connected to federal benefits to which they are entitled.

Through AB 2218, we can continue to lead with our Californian values of welcome, while also creating a pathway for our newest neighbors to reach stability and self-sufficiency, creating a stronger California for everyone



¹ Essey Workie, Mark Greenberg, and Lillie Hinkle, “A Solvable Challenge: Improving Asylee Access to Health and Other Benefits,” Migration Policy Institute, June 2021.

² Robin Ghertner, Suzanne Macartney, and Meredith Dost, “The Fiscal Impact of Refugees and Asylees Over 15 Years: Over $123 Billion in Net Benefit from 2005 to 2019,” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 2024.


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