Last year’s wave of immigrants arriving in New York from the southern border was unusual in several ways. Unlike most immigrants who make their way into the city, people were arriving in large numbers on buses, with very few local ties and little more than the clothes on their backs. More than 36,000 people have flocked to the city since the spring, Mayor Eric Adams said FridayAnd about 24,000 remain.
As the Biden administration seeks ways to control the southern border, those who arrived last year are beginning to build new lives. Some are struggling. taking other steps.
New York has been the first stop for immigrants for centuries, and the city offers some unique protections. It is one of the few places to guarantee the right of asylum for those in need, and has strong legal and social safety-net protections for immigrants. New arrivals have also benefited from assistance provided by an extensive network of relatively well-funded non-profit organizations.
However there are still hurdles. The busing began partly as a political ploy by the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona to draw attention to the border crisis, in contrast to normal migration patterns in which people connect with family or friends. Many of the recent migrants have been largely dependent on formal aid, and nonprofits, volunteer groups and the city all say they were overwhelmed by the sudden increase. While most immigrants are expected to make asylum petitions, immigration court backlogs mean the process can take years.
Much of the border debate in recent weeks has revolved around the use of Title 42, a public health provision that was used during the coronavirus pandemic to deny people from certain countries the right to seek refuge at the border. Just after Christmas, the Supreme Court left the provision in effect – for now.
President Biden said Thursday that Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians would also now be excluded using Title 42, a policy expanded this fall to Venezuelans. Mr Adams praised the move on Friday, calling it “one of the steps we need”, but warned the city still needed a lot more help to cover the costs of caring for asylum seekers.
Meanwhile, immigrants not covered under Title 42, or who arrived before its expansion, are still making their way to New York. Mr. Adams said this month that the governor of Colorado would be sending migrants to the city, A local volunteer said three buses from that state arrived late last week.
Finding work so they can be independent is important to these new New Yorkers – in interviews, dozens have said their main priority was to support themselves and send money home. While they are not authorized to work due to federal regulations, many are still working in sectors such as construction, restaurants and service industries.
‘I’m not lost anymore.’
Nearly eight years after leaving his native Venezuela and moving to Colombia, then Mexico, 48-year-old Ismael Guevara thinks he’s finally where he’s going to live. And he’s only been in town for a little over two months.
“I’m already addicted to New York,” he said in Spanish outside a cafe in Jackson Heights, Queens, on his lunch break from a nearby salon where he was working at the time. “I’m not lost anymore, I’m good. I get where I need to go.”
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“More and more every day, I feel like I’m going to live here in New York,” Mr. Guevara said. “I feel calm, I don’t need to look for another country.”
He left Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, because of instability and threats to his security. When he finally arrived in New York, he was sent to a winter tent shelter on Randall’s Island, which the city had erected in October.
After it was closed – after only a few weeks of operation – he was transferred to a hotel in midtown Manhattan, which is temporarily closed to tourists and instead serves as a city shelter for single men. doing.
Just over a month ago, Mr. Guevara got a job at a hair salon. He was once an award-winning stylist for a high-end salon, and is eager to return to pursuing his passion.
Every day he left for work early and headed to Columbus Circle, took the No. 1 train to Times Square, and then transferred to the 7 to head to Queens. He worked seven days a week and had a full list of clients. He could earn a few hundred dollars a day. Sometimes he’d stop into a Manhattan bar with live music for Corona after work, or pop into a fast-food joint for fried chicken.
Last week, Ismail quit his job at the salon to strike out on his own. He is working hard to improve his English, and hopes to rent his own apartment soon.
“The next step is to open my own salon in the future,” he said. “My salon, with my name on it. When I have my documents, and my papers, and everything.
‘Some days we don’t eat anything.’
Things haven’t been going so well for Akon Patrick Dieudon, 41, a Haitian living in Brazil for the past decade. He said he was a filmmaker and activist fighting for black and indigenous rights.
He said he left Haiti because of threats against an uncle, who was a politician and pastor in his hometown of Gonaives. He left again, he said, because of threats from supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.
Like thousands of others, he passed through the Darien Gap, a dangerous and undeveloped stretch of land linking Colombia and Panama, which has emerged as a main migrant route. On the way he met a woman from Salvador. The two continued together, entered the United States in San Diego, and then flew to New York with the help of a support group. She is now pregnant with his child. He is living with her and their 13-year-old daughter at a Hotel Row NYC in Midtown.
Mr. Dieudon was one of several recent arrivals who spoke at a church in Washington Heights last month about abuse at city shelters. He said that the food, including moldy sandwich bread, had made many people ill, and that they were often hungry, His partner is anemic, and he worries about her health.
A City Hall spokesman said in a statement that officials had no evidence of rotting food at the shelters, and that they delivered fresh food throughout the day. Breakfast and lunch are prepared overnight and delivered each morning, and dinner is prepared during the day, with snacks available at all times, the statement said.
When Mr. Dieudonné arrived in the city in October, he thought he would be able to get to work quickly. He hoped to get a job in film or TV production and wanted to someday start his own company. But for now, he’s hoping to take odd jobs and occasionally walk to Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, which has a thriving Haitian community. He occasionally sees Haitian friends, or an American friend he met in Brazil. He is trying to stay positive.
“I see there is a future out there,” he said. “But it’s very hard – some days we don’t eat anything.”
‘We are more stable.’
Loizeth Colmenares, 31, an immigrant from San Francisco de Tijanados, Venezuela, moved to New York four months ago with her husband and two sons. The family has spent three of those months living at the SpringHill Suites in Queens, which was converted into a shelter for newly arrived families last year.
At first, Ms. Colmenares’s two sons, Omar, 10, and Sebastian, 2, weren’t eating enough, because the packaged, reheated food served at the hotel was so different from what they were used to back home. Was. There were people in the shelter who did not speak Spanish, so the family had trouble finding resources. They were concerned about Ms Colmenares’ mother, sister and nephew, who reached the border but were turned back after Title 42 was extended to Venezuelan immigrants in October.
Now, things are looking up.
“We are more stable,” Ms. Colmenares said.
The food “is the same, but we’re adapting,” she explained. Life at the hotel has improved: A new director has implemented a lot of useful changes, Ms. Colmenares said.
“There is a social worker in every family. They built a game room for the kids. They made a computer room,” she said. Donations from volunteers and non-profits have also helped them get settled. “There are so many organizations. They have given us clothes, Christmas gifts,” she said. “They gave my husband some tools.”
He also gave a scooter to his son Umar, which he proudly rides on the footpath in spite of the cold winter.
Ms. Colmenares’ husband, Jose Romero, 36, also found work at a construction site in Jamaica, Queens, where he works five days a week and makes $20 an hour. Most of the money goes to support relatives who are out of the country, but when Omar turned 10 in early December, Ms. Colmenares and her husband bought him his favorite treat: chocolate cake.
Ms. Colmenares still hopes that some of her family members can join her in New York City. Her mother, who is disabled, lives in Mexico with Ms. Colmenares’ sister and nephew. Ms Colmenares said an organization affiliated with a church there had added their names to a list to expedite their entry into the United States.
“I’m talking to the doctors, with the chaplain who’s in charge of the organization, and they’re going to do everything possible to cross them over as soon as possible,” she said. “Because it’s really cold, and my mom’s lungs are getting sick.”
When they arrive, Ms. Colmenares hopes they too can be placed in a room at the hotel shelter if there is space.
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