New York – migration crisis or bad city management?

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alihasadd25/Pixabay Immigrants who have recently arrived in New York City after weeks of traveling in search of security and opportunities for a better life, live in temporary housing whose conditions leave much to be desired. What’s more, the food parcels given to refugees are unsuitable for children, they are often out of date, and there are no refrigerators or cooking facilities in the apartments. Many people staying at these places report abuse by security personnel, imposing check-in and check-out times, and strict food delivery times that do not coincide with their working hours. The latest example of the city’s weak and careless response was the eviction of asylum seekers temporarily staying at the Watson Hotel in Manhattan and their transfer to a new facility at the Red Hook Cruise Terminal in Brooklyn. The residents – without giving them any information and without being able to choose another shelter – were forced by the police to board buses that would transport them to the new facility: a large warehouse with hundreds of beds in the same space. For many of these people, moving to such a remote location with little access to public transport meant losing their jobs and access to local support networks, including health services, which took them months to find. New York City Mayor Eric Adams called the current situation an “immigration crisis.” This is a problematic narrative that often portrays immigrants as a burden and maintains the false belief that public systems are overwhelmed with migration when the same systems have been inefficient for years. The arrival of thousands of people in New York City in a matter of months has actually laid bare a deeper crisis: access to housing in the city, which organizations working with people in the homelessness crisis have long been talking about. While thousands of people live on the streets and in shelters, there are over 88,000 communal housing that the city can make available to those in need. In recent months there has also been the embezzlement of municipal resources. For example, $16 million was used to build an immigrant support center in Randall’s Island, which for unclear reasons was demolished a few weeks after it opened. New York City’s mayor has asked the federal government to declare a state of emergency and provide the city with millions of dollars in aid. According to many columnists, before any money is transferred, the city should improve transparency standards and account for the millions of dollars already used that have gone to city institutions and organizations (most of which have close ties to the Adams administration and the city’s Immigration Office – MOA). Asking the federal government for more money without developing the right norms is a missed opportunity to direct funds where they are really needed and where they would be well spent, and thus a missed opportunity to improve the quality of life not only for newcomers but for all city residents. According to Yajaira Saavedra, founder of La Morada, a restaurant and soup kitchen for the poor, located south of the Bronx in New York, the number of people in need continues to grow. – Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, we have been giving out about 650 free meals a day to all those in need. Not counting the distribution of hundreds of hot meals every day to shelters where asylum seekers live. We work with tenants’ organizations, social justice activists, and campaign against deportation and police abuse of immigrants. We work for food and housing justice, equal access to health care and education. Our headquarters is a safe space, a shelter, a sanctuary, a place where people feel welcome, loved and appreciated,” says Saavedra.
He also notes that the real help immigrants receive from volunteers – not from institutions, and the city’s mutual aid networks have been doing their work for them for years. “Instead of appreciating our effort, listening to the information we want to share, and considering the proposals we present, which are based on the real needs not only of immigrants but of all residents, the local authority rejects our work and ignores our concerns,” adds the activist. The governors of Texas and Florida have called on other states such as New York to take action on the current border situation. In response to the needs of migrants and asylum seekers, New York applied crisis solutions, i.e. quick and, above all, ad hoc solutions. Meanwhile, as Saavedra points out, systemic solutions are needed that will improve the quality of life for everyone in the city. In her opinion, New York City has the necessary resources to help residents. The only question is how he uses them…

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