NEW YORK — A white bus with Texas plates has just pulled up outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. The men and women on board have just completed a 30-hour nonstop bus journey from the Mexican border and arrived hungry, tired and some in need of immediate medical attention. It’s a hot Wednesday morning in early August, and rush hour traffic has clogged the city streets outside.
“Welcome to New York”, a small crowd of city officials and aid workers cheer, as television cameras and photographers crowd around.
This is the scene at one of the Texas-Mexico border bus arrivals, as Governor Greg Abbott shows his opposition to federal immigration policies by sending them to Washington, DC – and more recently, New York.
Some migrants want to come to New York, others say they were coerced or tricked into coming here by Texas officials. They have become the most public face of a political back-and-forth between the state of Texas and New York City. They are among a growing number of asylum seekers who arrived in the city from the US-Mexico border this summer. While city officials and volunteers have stepped up to warmly welcome asylum seekers, migrants’ journeys can still be fraught with pitfalls once they arrive.
Charities and volunteer groups have helped people as they arrive in recent months, but city officials and nonprofits have become more publicly involved in recent weeks. The TLC NYC team, part of a larger national organization called Grannies Respond, worked to provide food, clothing and medical assistance to asylum seekers upon arrival. In an interview on August 10, Group Director Ilze Thielmann said the cooperation had been successful.
Many of the approximately 5,000 newly arrived asylum seekers are alone in New York and entering the city’s homeless shelters
“We had a great coordinated response between our side, the volunteer side, [the] On the NGO side, and the city,” she said. “It was absolutely amazing.”
Many newly arrived asylum seekers do not have relatives in New York to live with. So, after leaving the station, they often enter the city’s homeless shelters. The shelter system does not track people based on their immigration status, but city officials estimate that between 4,000 and 5,000 asylum seekers have entered the city’s shelters since May.
New York’s shelters are already overcrowded, however, and not just with new immigrants. Capacity is low and affordable housing in New York is limited. Some migrants encountered difficulties with translation and municipal bureaucracy during the admissions process and felt unsafe upon arrival.
Carlos, a 26-year-old Venezuelan who recently arrived in the United States, says that as a member of the LGBTQ community, he felt threatened by other residents of an urban shelter for homeless men in Manhattan. He preferred to share only his first name to protect his legal status.
“They had problems with drugs, they had [mental] problems, and really, we felt in danger there,” he said in Spanish. “I would 1000 times rather stay on the street than [at that shelter].”
He called on New York City to offer more support, not only to immigrants like him, but also to Americans who are already facing problems here.
NYC officials want to hear about all the issues faced by migrants and are working with charities to help
Veronica, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, who also asked to use only her first name to protect her legal status, says she is six months pregnant and a pregnancy issue she encountered during a travel through Mexico requires specific medical care. . She says she was staying at a shelter in Manhattan, but it only offered housing.
“Immigration [officials] helped me in the hospital, but when they sent me here, I didn’t receive anything,” she says in Spanish. ” Absolutely nothing – [not even] medicine,” she says.
She says she didn’t know who to ask for help and hasn’t been in contact with people from the city government. She and Carlos received help from South Bronx Mutual Aid, a grassroots group working directly with migrants across the city.
New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs commissioner Manuel Castro says he wants to hear about all the issues people are having, and city officials are working with a growing group of charities and non-profit organizations.
“What’s important is that these families are connected to us…so that we understand what were the challenges they faced,” Castro said. “And we can adjust appropriately.”
Activists want New York to do more to improve housing issues and address the complex needs of asylum seekers
But campaigners are calling for more work to be done. Ariadna Phillips, organizer of South Bronx Mutual Aid, said the city should do more to improve New York’s deep-seated housing problems and to ensure the complex needs of asylum seekers are met after already experienced grueling journeys.
“People say it’s the capital of the world, so we’re going to act on it,” Philips says. “If everyone says they can’t handle these conditions, then we’re going to step in and be part of the solution.”
The state of Texas continued to send buses without sharing arrival times in advance. As migrants, volunteer groups and New York City officials continue to adapt, they watch the political back-and-forth unfold on a deeply human level.