Immigration advocates, pols demand intensified actions on migrant crisis

From left, Council Members Rafael L. Espinal, Jr., Farah N. Louis and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.
From left, Council Members Rafael L. Espinal, Jr., Farah N. Louis and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.
Photo courtesy Office of Brooklyn Borough President

In the wake of the ongoing migrant crisis in the United States, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso on Thursday joined immigration advocates in urging elected officials, the real estate community and the Biden administration to intensify efforts in solving the crisis that involves Caribbean and other illegal migrants and refugees.

“While Mayor Adams (New York City Mayor Eric Adams) is doing the wrong thing in rolling back Right-to-Shelter, we must be careful to call even more loudly on those who are doing nothing at all: the real estate community that sits on thousands of vacant apartments while families sleep in the streets; our neighbors in the suburbs who hide behind racist zoning policies that prevent new affordable housing from being built; and the Biden administration that refuses to step up with meaningful aid despite immigration being a federal issue,” Reynoso, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, told Caribbean Life.

“In the problems that got us here lie the solutions that can pull us out,” he added. “If the real estate community continues to resist voluntarily opening up vacant apartments for those experiencing homelessness, we need to explore legal action. If suburban leaders like Rockland County Executive Ed Day continue to call asylum-seekers rapist and criminals and threaten to ‘reach up and grab [Mayor Adams] by the throat for the people of Rockland County,’ we must name their racist hate and demand they do their part by offering shelter now and housing in the near future,” he added.

“And if the federal government continues to sit idly by, we will ensure every person in this city and state understands the blame for this situation lies with President Biden and his failure to lead on a comprehensive solution,” Reynoso continued. “Because when our neighbors – whether down the street, across the country, or over borders – need help, our community must and will show up. That’s what Brooklyn stands for, that’s what New York stands for, and that’s what we must demand this country to stand for.”

As the COVID-era policy, known as Title 42, ended mid-night Thursday, which allowed immigration agents to swiftly remove Caribbean and other illegal migrants from the US, Reynoso said “the imminent arrival of more people and families seeking asylum is no excuse to go back on our values here in New York City.

“Right-to-Shelter exists to defend the basic rights, dignity and safety of people who are without a stable place to settle,” he said. “And to roll it back – or even threaten as much – is not only cruel but a tactic of intimidation we will not accept.

“Rather than abandon the humanity this city stands for, we must meet this national crisis with a national solution —– a solution that the real estate community, New York suburbs, and federal government can no longer decline to be a part of.”

In response to the Mayor Adams’s executive order to temporarily suspend New York City’s right-to-shelter protections, Natalia Aristizabal Betancur, deputy director of Make the Road New York, an immigration advocacy group, said it was “simply outrageous for Mayor Adams to flout the law and try to suspend right-to-shelter protections that have been fundamental to New York City housing laws for decades.

“Everyone, regardless of immigration status, deserves a safe roof over their heads,” she said.
“The City has a moral obligation to do the right thing and step up to provide support — not put New Yorkers, including recently arrived people, at grave risk.

“We urge the Adams administration to reverse course immediately and work to provide real, appropriate and safe solutions,” Betancur added. “We and our allies have articulated multiple alternative steps–like expanding access to CityFHEPs vouchers to all people regardless of immigration status and eliminating the 90-day rule for eligibility – that Mayor Adams should take to address the current situation and help all New Yorkers, including asylum seekers, move into permanent housing. It’s time for him to listen and act on those policy recommendations.”

On Thursday, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York, rallied, on the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan, with elected officials, Hudson Valley-serving nonprofit organizations and immigrant New Yorkers, urging the Biden and Adams’ administrations to step up efforts to address the crisis.

“The Adams administration needs to evolve its response from an emergency footing to a permanent one, and start investing in an infrastructure — which includes coordination with local municipalities and community-based organizations — to move people from NYC’s shelters to permanent housing using vouchers, as well as increase funding to meet legal and social services needs,” said Murad Awawdeh, NYIC’s executive director. “This will ensure that asylum seekers, and all New Yorkers, are better able to integrate and build their lives here.”

Late last week, Adams announced a new program to provide up to four months of temporary sheltering in nearby New York counties, outside of New York City, to single-adult men seeking asylum who are already in the city’s care.

Many of the asylum seekers are nationals of Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.

In his announcement, Adams said the program will launch with two hotels located in Orange Lake and Orangeburg counties, with the potential to expand, and will provide asylum seekers with shelter for up to four months as well as the same city-funded services available at Humanitarian Emergency Relief and Response Centers.

The mayor said staff at participating hotels will also connect asylum seekers with community-based organizations and faith groups to support their transition to a new city.

With the number of asylum seekers arriving in New York City rapidly accelerating ahead of Title 42’s lifting on Thursday, and what is expected to be an even larger influx after that day, Adams said the hotels in Orange Lake and Orangeburg will “free up” additional space in New York City for the hundreds of asylum seekers continuing to arrive in the five boroughs every day.

Since last spring, the mayor said over 60,800 asylum seekers have come through New York City and been offered a place to stay, adding that over 37,500 asylum seekers are currently in the city’s care.

At the same time, the mayor continues to call for the state and federal governments to provide support to manage this crisis, including financial assistance, a national decompression strategy, expedited work authorization, “real immigration reform”, and more.

On Tuesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued an executive order to help provide aid to Caribbean and other asylum seekers expected to arrive in New York, as US federal Title 42 immigration policy was set to expire Thursday night.

Hochul said the executive order will provide the state with greater flexibility to procure the resources necessary for municipalities to support asylum seekers while also allowing the State to increase the number of National Guard service members providing logistical and operational support.

Executive Order 28 allows the state and localities to quickly respond to the anticipated arrivals of asylum seekers.

It will allow New York State to mobilize an additional 500 members of the National Guard, who are currently providing logistical and operational support at the Port Authority and shelter sites, bringing the total mobilization to approximately 1,500 service members.

It will also allow the state and localities to quickly purchase necessary supplies and resources, including food and equipment.

Hochul said she worked with the New York Legislature to secure more than US$1 billion in funding to help New York City support asylum seekers in the Fiscal Year2024 Budget, adding that the new executive order will allow State and municipal officials to quickly mobilize these resources to address large numbers of asylum seekers expected to arrive after Title 42 expires.

On Wednesday, the US Department of State and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced additional sweeping measures to deter Caribbean and other migrants from illegally entering the US.

The US said Haitians and Cubans, as well as Venezuelans, have been among migrants flooding the United States’ southern border in attempting to enter the country. Many, who have managed to cross the border, have sought asylum.

“The Department of Homeland Security and Department of State are focused on solutions, and have a robust plan to humanely manage the border through deterrence, enforcement and diplomacy,” said the State Department in a statement.

“With the support of the Department of Defense and multiple countries across the Western Hemisphere, DHS and State are implementing that plan within the constraints of a broken immigration system that Congress has repeatedly failed to fix, including by not acting on President Biden’s comprehensive immigration reform proposal, bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers and farm workers, or repeated requests for additional resources,” it added.

The State Department said that, with the lifting of the Title 42 order, the United States will be strengthening its enforcement of long-standing Title 8 immigration authorities to expeditiously process and remove individuals who arrive at the US border unlawfully and do not have a legal basis to remain.

“Individuals who cross into the United States at the southwest border without authorization or without having used a lawful pathway, and without having scheduled a time to arrive at a port of entry, will be presumed ineligible for asylum, absent an applicable exception,” the State Department warned. “If removed, they will be barred from re-entry for at least five years and subject to potential criminal prosecution for repeated attempts to enter unlawfully.”