Outside the Watson Hotel in New York City, newly arrived immigrants of all walks of life and all ages come together outside their new temporary home. They share their dreams and their struggles. Many say they have fled their country because of economic or political difficulties.
Gisele is one of more than 113,000 migrants who have arrived in the city in the past 18 months. Many of them were brought in on buses from Texas or Florida. After an arduous two-and-a-half month campaign, Gisele said her family was lucky to find housing, adding that not everyone has the same experience. “There are a lot of people on the streets with their kids and that shouldn’t be happening,” Gisele said.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams said, “I don’t see an end to this. This issue will destroy NYC.”
This is a crisis dividing parties and communities. State and city leaders have attempted to open more than 200 shelters and 11 humanitarian relief centers to house migrants across the state, but not everyone is welcoming.
Staten Island resident Jimmy Gill said, “I’m here to protest this homeless shelter for these illegal aliens. They don’t belong here on Staten Island.”
Mayor Adams estimates that providing food and shelter to migrants will result in a $12 billion deficit over the next three years.
“Every service in this city is going to be affected,” Adams said.
Both Adams and fellow Democrat New York Governor Kathy Hochul are calling on President Biden to take executive action to help deal with the influx of migrants by providing federal aid and expediting temporary work authorizations for newly arrived immigrants.
“If we have a crisis of anything right now, it’s a crisis of leadership. We need our elected leaders to lead and really be solution-oriented,” said Murad Avvadeh, executive director of the UN. NY Immigration Coalition.
Avavadeh says the number of migrants in the city represents only a fraction of the population that left the city or died during the pandemic.
“Immigrants built this city, built this state and continue to contribute more than $60 billion a year in tax revenues,” Awawdeh said.
Some migrants have taken up low-paid jobs such as selling food or cleaning houses. Many say the salary they receive is not enough to afford rent, which often requires a substantial deposit and proof of income to get ahead.
Escalona, a Venezuelan immigrant, said, “It’s hard, but I’m a Venezuelan who came to fight for what I want. I’m not someone who takes advantage of state resources.”
Gisele plans to apply for asylum and, like many people here, she hopes a work permit will be approved so many people here can help ease the migrant crisis.
“It’s important because somebody comes to work, we want to work so we can support our families,” Gisele said.