New Yorkers were on Friday warning of rising levels of crime, shootings and homelessness as a busload of 54 asylum seekers arrived from Texas before they were settled in shelters, hotels or joined relatives elsewhere.
DailyMail.com visited an established New York shelter for asylum seekers — beneath St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem — and spoke to locals about their concerns for a community that has long battled crime, drugs and mental health crisis.
They spoke after the first bus of migrants sent from Texas by Governor Greg Abbott arrived at Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan on Friday morning after making the nearly 2,000-mile trip from the border that lasted days.
‘We don’t know anything about them. We don’t know if they’re criminals. They’re refugees so they could be disguising themselves as good people,” said Juan Manuel, 69, a retired publisher who lives blocks from the shelter.
Manuel said he feared an influx of new asylum seekers would add to the ‘pretty high’ crime levels in the city, where a spike in shootings and murders in July fueled a 31 percent increase in the city’s crime rate over the same month last year.
‘These refugees can come to those shelters and find they’re not such safe places inside, they’re worried about stuff being stolen or being stabbed, and so they go and live on the streets instead,’ added Manuel.
Gail Harper, 85, a retired shop assistant, mum of four and now a great-grandmother, warned that the Manhattanville neighborhood was already overcrowded with ‘undesirables’ and homeless people erecting makeshift tents in nearby parks.
‘Why are they gonna have so many more of them come in here? And there’s so many homeless that’s out there now,’ Harper said, recalling when eh moved to the area in the 1970s, when it ‘didn’t have all the homeless and shootings’.
Frankie Michael, 38, an event manager, said New York was a ‘weird place right now’ after the Covid-19 pandemic, racial justice protests and deepening social ills and questioned whether the city could accommodate newcomers.
The basement of St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem is one New York’s established shelters for asylum seekers
‘I just saw guys sleeping naked underneath the bus stop,’ said Michael, pointing towards Amsterdam Avenue.
‘I’ve seen a lot of homeless lately, more than ever, and in recent years this area has gotten a little shady, especially at night, with homeless people trying to come off heroin. And the east side is like Skid Row.’
The first footage of the bus arriving in New York at 6.30am Friday morning was captured by Fox News.
The Big Apple now joins Washington D.C. as a drop-off location for migrants who have recently crossed from Central America, have been processed and are awaiting their immigration court dates.
A group of charity workers and volunteers greeted the 54 migrants — evenly split between single men and family groups. About 40 stayed in New York and others travelled on to join relatives and friends in other cities.
Those that stayed in New York either joined relatives in the city or took taxis to processing centers and then temporary shelters or hotels in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, said organizer Ilze Thielmann, from the charity Team TLC NYC.
Thielmann said the group was preparing for busloads of more arrivals after the Texas governor’s office indicated New York was a drop-off point in its effort to push responsibility for border crossers to Democratic mayors.
She accused Gov. Abbott of ‘using human beings as pawns in a political publicity stunt’.
‘When you just ship out a bunch of people to a city where they have nowhere to go, you’re endangering human lives, including little kids,’ said Thielmann.
She bashed the Texas Republican for calling the group illegal immigrants, when all had lawful papers.
One of the arrivals Jose Rodriguez, 38, told DailyMail.com he chose New York because it has the ‘best opportunities’ of the options he was given when he crossed the border.
He added that the group wasn’t allowed to leave a building in Texas building they were housed in and he lost all of his documents in his journey over the Rio Grande.
Bertilio Rosale, 54, also told DailyMail.com on arrival: ‘I want to see the Statue of Liberty and the rest of the city. There are more job opportunities here, I will do anything I can. The bus here was good, we have all come from all over.’
The Biden administration has accused Republican states of using migrants as a ‘political ploy’ and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser last week said the buses are causing a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the nation’s capital.
She called in the National Guard to assist with the more than 5,000 migrants who have been sent to D.C.
Scroll down for video
Bertilio Rosale (left) and Jose Rodriguez (right) arrive at New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal after their almost 2,000-mile trip. Rodriguez, 38, told DailyMail.com he chose New York because it has the ‘best opportunities’ of the options he was given when he crossed the border
Charity workers and volunteers met the migrants after their journey to help them get to shelters or hotels in New York
The Big Apple now joins Washington D.C. as a drop-off location for migrants who have recently crossed from Central America, have been processed and are awaiting their immigration court dates
The first bus of migrants sent from Texas by Governor Greg Abbott arrived in New York City on Friday morning at around 6.30
‘Because of President Biden’s continued refusal to acknowledge the crisis caused by his open border policies, the State of Texas has had to take unprecedented action to keep our communities safe,’ said Governor Abbott.
‘In addition to Washington, D.C., New York City is the ideal destination for these migrants, who can receive the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has boasted about within the sanctuary city.
‘I hope he follows through on his promise of welcoming all migrants with open arms so that our overrun and overwhelmed border towns can find relief.’
Abbott also invited Adams and Bowser to visit the border and see the crisis first hand, but Adams declined.
A day earlier Abbott spoke at a conservative conference in Dallas describing how he came up with the idea after speaking to leaders in Uvalde and Del Rio who said they couldn’t cope with the number of arrivals.
‘And they were talking about getting the illegal immigrants that border patrol had dropped off into their communities that they were incapable of dealing with, and them actually busing them to San Antonio,’ he told the Conservative Political Action Conference.
‘I said don’t do that. I have a better idea.
The group was dropped off at Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan after making the almost 2,000-mile trip from the border in footage captured by Fox News
‘We’re gonna bust him all the way to Washington D.C.
‘We deal with that number every single day, I got one thing to tell you and to tell them there are more buses on the way as we gather at this conference today.’
The audience responded with whoops and cheers, before Abbott plugged a crowd-funding website that helps pay for the buses.
Last Monday, Adams declared a city-wide emergency and called on the federal government to step in as a major influx of migrants strains New York City’s shelter system.
Roughly 4,000 asylum-seekers have come to NYC since May, Adams’ office stated.
‘New York is a city of immigrants, and we will always welcome newcomers with open arms. Over the past two months, we have seen a significant increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving in our city’s shelter system,’ Adams said in a statement.
A group of charity workers and volunteers greeted the roughly 50 migrants, who were mostly men, before they ventured into the city
Last Monday, Adams declared a city-wide emergency and called on the federal government to step in as a major influx of migrants strains New York City’s shelter system
Adams has warned Republican states against sending the buses north. Greg Abbott has said the buses are an opportunity for Democrat-run cities to see the border crisis first hand
He had been calling the Biden administration for help since at least last month.
Many of the group arriving today had been told less than 24 hours before that they were being moved, with many losing any form of identification when crossing the river.
Clutching bags given to them by charities, the groups were spilt off with the men reportedly sent to men’s only shelters across the city.
Adams pledged in the Monday statement that he will ‘continue to work with federal and state partners to procure additional financial resources immediately’ to assist with the surge.
During a July 21 press conference on the matter, Adams slammed Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey as ‘heartless’ over their bussing orders.
New York’s The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless also attacked Abbott’s move on Friday as a ‘cynical’ stunt.
‘Governor Abbott is shamelessly exploiting these migrants – human beings who have endured immense suffering in their home countries and on the journey to the United States, seeking safe haven and a better life – to serve some myopic political purpose,’ the organization said in a statement.
‘Regardless of who these people are, where they are from, or for what cynical reason they are being sent here, New York is a sanctuary and right to shelter city, and the City must ensure that beds and critical services are immediately available to meet any demand.
‘As representatives of homeless New Yorkers and the legal team who secured New York’s historic right to shelter law, we will continue to monitor this development, including onsite at the City’s shelter intake centers for both individuals and for families. We call on City Hall to immediately provide this Administration’s plan for addressing the needs of all migrants arriving in New York City and requiring our help.’
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News on Friday morning to react to the arrival in New York City and said: ‘We have lost operational control of the border’.
He added that it was a ‘formula for disaster’ and linked the crisis to the reemergence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan following the CIA drone strike that killed leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul on Saturday.
In June, 240,991 migrants were caught crossing the border, including six who were on a terror watch list.
It was a 14 per cent decline from May, but the surge in crossings over the last year has broken records.
Biden is still trying to end Title 42, a Trump-era COVID policy that saw migrants deported straight back to Mexico, but a judge has ordered the president to continue enforcing it.
Twenty-six percent of all crossers in June had previously attempted to cross the border within the last year, which is up from the usual 15 percent between 2014 and 2019, CBP said.
The largest group to come through was single adults, making up 68 percent of the crossing, with 140,197 people.
A total of 207,416 migrants were encountered at the US southern border in June 2022
The majority of those who crossed in June were single adults, with 140,000. There was also 51,780 in family units and 15,271 unaccompanied children, as well as, six on terrorists lists
US to issue ID to migrants awaiting deportation proceedings
U.S. immigration authorities are planning to issue photo ID cards to immigrants in deportation proceedings in a bid to slash paper use and help people stay up-to-date on required meetings and court hearings, officials said.
The proposal from Immigration and Customs Enforcement is still being developed as a pilot program, and it was not immediately clear how many the agency would issue. The cards would not be an official form of federal identification, and would state they are to be used by the Department of Homeland Security.
The idea is for immigrants to be able to access information about their cases online by using a card rather than paper documents that are cumbersome and can fade over time, officials said. They said ICE officers could also run checks on the cards in the field.
‘Moving to a secure card will save the agency millions, free up resources, and ensure information is quickly accessible to DHS officials while reducing the agency’s FOIA backlog,’ an ICE spokesperson said in a statement, referring to unfulfilled public requests for agency documents.
Migrants from Central America, Mexico and Haiti are given humanitarian parole in Tijuana to enter the United States on Wednesday
Homeland Security gets more Freedom of Information Act requests than any other federal agency, according to government data, and many of those involve immigration records.
The proposal has sparked a flurry of questions about what the card might be used for and how secure it would be. Some fear the program could lead to tracking of immigrants awaiting their day in immigration court, while others suggest the cards could advertised by migrant smugglers to try to induce others to make the dangerous trip north.
The Biden administration is seeking $10 million for the so-called ICE Secure Docket Card in a budget proposal for the next fiscal year. It was not immediately clear if the money would cover the pilot or a broader program or when it would begin.
The administration has faced pressure as the number of migrants seeking to enter the country on the southwest border has increased. Border Patrol agents stopped migrants more than 1.1 million times from January to June, up nearly one-third from the same period of an already-high 2021.
Many migrants are turned away under COVID-19-related restrictions. But many are allowed in and either are detained while their cases churn through the immigration courts or are released and required to check in periodically with ICE officers until a judge rules on their cases.
Those most likely to be released in the United States are from countries where expulsion under the public health order is complicated due to costs, logistics or strained diplomatic relations, including Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
At shelters, bus stations and airports along the U.S.-Mexico border, migrants carefully guard their papers in plastic folders. These are often the only documents they have to get past airport checkpoints to their final destinations in the United States. The often dog-eared papers can be critical to getting around.
An immigration case can take years and the system can be confusing, especially for immigrants who know little English and may need to work with an array of government agencies, including ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which issues work permits and green cards. U.S. immigration courts are overseen by the Justice Department.
Gregory Z. Chen, senior director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said migrants have mistakenly gone to ICE offices instead of court for scheduled hearings that they then missed as a result. He said so long as immigrants’ privacy is protected, the card could be helpful.
‘If ICE is going to be using this new technology to enable non citizens to check in with ICE, or to report information about their location and address, and then to receive information about their case – where their court hearings might be, what the requirements might be for them to comply with the law – that would be a welcome approach,’ Chen said.
It was not clear whether Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration would accept the cards for airport travel or whether private businesses would consider it valid.
The United States doesn’t have a national photo identification card. Residents instead use a range of cards to prove identification, including driver’s licenses, state ID cards and consular ID cards. What constitutes a valid ID is often determined by the entity seeking to verify a person’s identity.
Talia Inlender, deputy director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at University of California, Los Angeles’ law school, said she was skeptical that using a card to access electronic documents would simplify the process for immigrants, especially those navigating the system without a lawyer, and questioned whether the card has technology that could be used to increase government surveillance of migrants.
But having an ID could be useful, especially for migrants who need to travel within the U.S., Inlender said.
‘Many people are fleeing persecution and torture in their countries. They’re not showing up with government paperwork,’ Inlender said. ‘Having a form of identification to be able to move throughout daily life has the potential to be a helpful thing.’
That has some Republican lawmakers concerned that the cards could induce more migrants to come to the U.S. or seek to access benefits they’re not eligible for. A group of 16 lawmakers sent a letter last week to ICE raising questions about the plan.
‘The Administration is now reportedly planning yet another reckless policy that will further exacerbate this ongoing crisis,’ the letter said.
Families wait in Tijuana during their journey north to the United States