Asylum seekers caught in political battle in NYC, Washington (2022)

By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN and ASHRAF KHALIL | Associated Press

NEW YORK — Weary of Venezuela’s autocratic government and the pittance he earned in the military, Dario Maldonado deserted and fled with his family to neighboring Colombia.

But life remained hard — money was tight and expenses mounted. So he set off for the United States, an odyssey that required him to travel by foot through Central American jungle infested with venomous snakes and gun-toting bandits, sometimes sidestepping the corpses of people who died on the same journey.

Now Maldonado and thousands of other asylum seekers from across Latin America and the Caribbean are caught in the political battle over U.S. immigration policy after two Republican governors started sending busloads of migrants to New York City and Washington.

Border cities such as San Diego have long wrestled with influxes of asylum-seekers and created well-oiled machines to respond, but the nation’s largest city and its capital were caught flat-footed. That created an opening for Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona to exploit what they consider failed Democratic leadership.

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Nearly 8,000 migrants have arrived on the state-sponsored bus trips, straining the resources and humanitarian services of both cities, which have also sought assistance from the federal government.

(Video) Asylum seekers arrive in NYC, D.C. from Texas

“This can be chaotic. But we want to send a message: We’re here to help, and we want to put politics aside,” said New York City’s immigration commissioner, Manuel Castro, as he greeted arriving migrants on a recent morning.

Abbott started the practice in April with Washington, and Doug Ducey followed suit in May. Abbott also recently began sending buses to New York.

For migrants, the politics are only dimly understood — and far less relevant than finding temporary shelter, jobs and a long-term home in America.

“I have heard that the Texas governor is anti-immigrant,” Maldonado said outside a New York shelter. “It is like a war between the party of the governor of Texas and the party of Biden.”

A voluntary consent form for free transportation from Texas tells migrants that Washington is where the president and members of Congress “are more immediately able to help address the needs of migrants.”

Migrants who sign a consent form for a free trip to New York are told that the city has designated itself a “sanctuary” for migrants, who are provided with food and shelter.

U.S. authorities stopped migrants 1.43 million times at the Mexican border from January through July, up 28% from the same period last year. Many are released on humanitarian parole or with notices to appear in immigration court.

The sight of both cities scrambling to cope with the influx drew undisguised schadenfreude from Abbott, who called New York City “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.”

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In both cities, social service charities and churches have mobilized to support new arrivals, offering temporary shelter, medical attention and often a ticket to their next destination as they await a date in immigration court.

“Many are fleeing persecution and other very severe circumstances. They’re confused. And we want to make sure that we support them as much as possible and make sure that they’re not being used as political pawns,” Castro said.

On a recent August day, a bus of 41 migrants from Arizona arrived at a church in Washington’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, where they were greeted by workers from SAMU First Response, an international relief agency.

Within minutes the group was enjoying a hot meal inside the church and filling out arrival forms.

Texas buses arrive haphazardly, said Tatiana Laborde, the agency’s managing director. They only hear from charitable groups that a bus carrying a certain number of people has departed. At some point about 48 hours later, that bus drops off riders at Washington’s Union Station.

Arizona provides detailed manifests of passengers and their nationalities, coordination on arrival times and has medical personnel aboard each bus.

“They don’t want to just dump people here,” Laborde said.

Many of those who arrive in Washington don’t stay long. Mayor Muriel Bowser, in her second request for National Guard support, told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week that most migrants stay up to 72 hours before moving on to their final destinations.

(Video) Barcode bracelets on asylum seekers arriving from Texas alarm NYC officials | ABC7NY

“They don’t know much about D.C. other than the president is here,” Laborde said.

Kelin Enriquez, another Venezuelan, was among them. She and and her children first arrived in Washington and later found themselves at a family center in the Bronx to plan the family’s next steps.

“No one leaves their land because they want to. We want to work. We want a better opportunity,” said Enriquez, who helped care for Alzheimer’s patients in her native country.

Some migrants see a free ticket from the border as the best of bad options.

For Eduardo Garcia, the top priorities were finding a job and a place to live and starting life anew.

It was an agonizing journey, even if he hadn’t broken his left ankle while trying to keep his wife from falling along the perilous trail. He limped in pain for more than 1,000 miles.

“I didn’t care because I cared more about getting here,” he said.

He told no one about his fractured limb until he arrived in New York, where he got medical attention, a cast and crutches.

(Video) NYC unveils school plan for asylum seekers and their kids

In New York, many of the migrants make their way to the offices of Catholic Charities. Officials in Texas — it is unclear who — listed the office as the migrants’ address, which perplexed church officials at the New York Diocese. The diocese has now received more than 1,300 court notices on behalf of migrants.

“I think we were maybe caught off guard, a little bit disappointed by the governments in Texas and Arizona just putting individuals on buses to D.C. without any plan at the other end,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of migrant services for Catholic Charities in New York.

In the last two months, the procession of Venezuelans seeking refuge in the United States has grown dramatically. In July, Border Patrol agents stopped Venezuelans 17,603 times — up 34% from June and nearly triple from July 2021.

The United States does not recognize the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro because of allegations that the country’s 2018 election was a sham. The lack of official recognition complicates the country’s ability to take back asylum-seekers. The Mexican government also refuses to accept the migrants, which gives the U.S. few options in handling Venezuelans.

At a New York City shelter, brothers Leonardo Oviedo, 22, and Angel Mota, 19, seemed giddy shortly after arriving in New York. They had plans to reconnect with an acquaintance in New Jersey.

Big plans lie ahead. Oviedo wants to land a job. Mota wants to attend school. How they will accomplish their dreams was still uncertain as the pair swiped through photos of relatives they left behind in Venezuela, including their mother, grandmother, brother and sister.

For now, neither brother is especially concerned about the politics that brought them here.

“We had nowhere to go,” Mota said outside a shelter on a sweltering summer morning. “This is where they would welcome us.”

(Video) How NYC Migrants Crisis Likely Started With Confusion at the Border | The Debrief

Khalil reported from Washington. Associated Press journalists Anita Snow in Phoenix, Claudia Torrens and Robert Bumsted in New York, and Jacquelyn Martin and Nathan Ellgren in Washington contributed to this report.

FAQs

How many migrants sent to NYC? ›

Officials estimated more than 17,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since April, an unprecedented influx they warn could cost the city more than $1 billion this year for emergency sheltering and resettlement.

What are some challenges asylum seekers face? ›

What Have Refugee Families Experienced?
  • Violence (as witnesses, victims, and/or perpetrators)
  • War.
  • Lack of food, water, and shelter.
  • Physical injuries, infections, and diseases.
  • Torture.
  • Forced labor.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Lack of medical care.

Who can seek asylum? ›

Anyone can apply for asylum. Normally, however, it is a person who considers themselves at risk of serious harm in their country of origin, or who is compelled to leave their country in search of safety in another country.

Does holland accept refugees? ›

The Netherlands grants asylum to people who would be in danger if they were to return to their own country. First, however, special procedures are followed to determine whether an asylum seeker genuinely needs protection.

What is the difference between refugee and asylum seeker? ›

The definition of an asylum seeker is someone who has arrived in a country and asked for asylum. Until they receive a decision as to whether or not they are a refugee, they are known as an asylum seeker. In the UK, this means they do not have the same rights as a refugee or a British citizen would.

How many asylum seekers are in NYC? ›

New York City now has more than 61,000 people in our shelter system. That includes thousands of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and thousands of asylum seekers who have been bused in over the past few months from other parts of the country. Almost 20,000 are children, and one in five of them is an asylum seeker.

What kind of trauma do refugees have? ›

Refugees from war zones have often faced a range of stress factors that are experienced by no other population. In their home country, traumatic experiences may have included bombs, imprisonment, torture, and exile; and for children, they often also include witnessing or being targets of domestic violence.

Why are asylum seekers rejected? ›

We have seen asylum applications that were rejected merely because a person did not list their foreign address properly. We have also seen asylum applications that were rejected for not providing the required number of copies. Failing to provide sufficient evidence – It is never too late to obtain evidence.

How long does asylum status last? ›

If your asylum application is approved, you will receive an approval notice and your I-94 card stamped "asylum granted indefinitely." You are now living in the U.S. with "asylee" status. With the I-94, you can apply for a Social Security number and work legally without a work permit.

Is it easy to get asylum in USA? ›

Asylum seekers must navigate a difficult and complex process that can involve multiple government agencies. Those granted asylum can apply to live in the United States permanently and gain a path to citizenship and can also apply for their spouse and children to join them in the United States.

What documents are needed for asylum? ›

The most important document for an officer to review is either the asylum application (Form I-589) or the relative petition (Form I-730). Both provide proof of status and establish identity (with attached photo) as well as citizenship, since many asylees will not have a birth certificate or passport.

How much money do asylum seekers get in Netherlands? ›

As of 1 January 2022, the social welfare allowance for Dutch citizens is set at €1.037,12 for a single person who is at least 21 years old and not older than 67 years. An asylum seeker receives approximately less than 30% of the social welfare allowance provided to Dutch citizens.

Can you go back to home country after asylum? ›

It is only after an asylee becomes a U.S. citizen that he will be eligible for a U.S. passport. Asylees should also understand that until they obtain U.S. citizenship they cannot travel back to their countries.

How much does it cost to apply for asylum? ›

You must file the petition within 2 years of being granted asylum unless there are humanitarian reasons to excuse this deadline. There is no fee to file this petition.

What is an illegal asylum seeker? ›

There is no such thing as an 'illegal' or 'bogus' asylum seeker. Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim.

What are 3 rights that refugees are entitled to? ›

Rights of integration

the right at Article 3 not to discriminate between refugees, meaning that some refugees may not be treated worse than others. the right at Article 4 to freedom of religion and religious education of their children.

Do asylum seekers have legal rights? ›

What rights do asylum seekers have under the Convention? Very few. Asylum seekers have the right of entry into a country. Because they may indeed turn out to be refugees, the country has a duty to examine their claim and they cannot be turned back to their home country while this is going on.

Where did most of New York's immigrants come from? ›

They first came from Ireland and Germany and later from Italy, Eastern Europe, and China, among other places. Because most immigrants were poor when they arrived, they often lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where rents for the crowded apartment buildings, called tenements, were low.

Where do most refugees come from? ›

Türkiye hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.8 million people. Colombia is second with more than 1.8 million, including Venezuelans displaced abroad.
...
Welcome to UNHCR's Refugee Population Statistics Database.
Syrian Arab Republic6.8 million
South Sudan2.4 million
Myanmar1.2 million
2 more rows
Jun 16, 2022

How many Burmese are in NYC? ›

Top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas by Burmese population, 2019
Metro areaBurmese population
New York7,000
Milwaukee6,000
Los Angeles6,000
San Francisco5,000
6 more rows
Apr 29, 2021

What emotions do refugees feel? ›

Memories of a childhood spent running away from war. Trying to find stability in a place where you feel like an outsider.

How does being a refugee affect your mental health? ›

It is estimated that around half of refugees internationally experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (48.7%) (Hamrah et al., 2020), anxiety and psychological distress (40–50%) and that one-sixth have severe mental illness (16%) (Chen, Hall, Ling, & Renzaho, 2017; Guajardo et al., 2018; Taylor et al., 2014).

What are the disadvantages of being a refugee? ›

distance and lack of communication with families in the home country and/ or countries of asylum (particularly if/where the family remains in a conflict situation) ongoing mental health issues due to trauma, including survivor guilt. financial difficulties.

How do you win asylum? ›

Strategies for Improving Chances of Qualifying for Asylum

You must show that this persecution was (or would be) inflicted on you because of one or more "protected grounds": your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Can you be deported after asylum denied? ›

If you are still denied asylum by federal court – or if you do not file an appeal when the immigration judge denies your case – you will probably be deported. It is almost impossible to do any of this successfully without an attorney with experience in asylum.

What if I marry a US citizen while my asylum case is denied? ›

The answer is yes you can. After you marry, you can apply for what is referred to as a marriage-based green card which we will also discuss further in detail. If USCIS denies your asylum application, your case will be referred to immigration court for removal proceedings.

Are asylum seekers allowed to work? ›

The Immigration Rules

paragraph 360 sets out that asylum seekers may apply for permission to work if they have not received an initial decision on their claim within 12 months but this will only be considered if that delay was through no fault of the applicant.

Which country takes in the most refugees 2022? ›

These were the 12 largest host communities at the beginning of 2022 | Concern Worldwide.
...
We're also using the UNHCR's data, recent as of the beginning of 2021.
  • Chad. ...
  • Democratic Republic of Congo. ...
  • Jordan. ...
  • Iran. ...
  • Ethiopia. ...
  • Bangladesh. ...
  • Lebanon. ...
  • Sudan.

What is an asylum? ›

Asylum is a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed (deported) to a country where he or she fears persecution or harm. Under U.S. law, people who flee their countries because they fear persecution can apply for asylum.

How much does nyc mayor get paid? ›

$258,750

Does NYC mayor get a pension? ›

“That's how you pay back that debt!” De Blasio's yearly six-figure pension comes after serving two decades in elected office, first as a Brooklyn city councilman, then as public advocate and the final eight years as mayor, according to the New York City Employees' Retirement System.

How many times can a mayor be re elected? ›

No elective provincial, city, or municipal official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. Section 4.

Is political asylum permanent? ›

Those granted asylum can apply to live in the United States permanently and gain a path to citizenship and can also apply for their spouse and children to join them in the United States.

How long does asylum status last? ›

If your asylum application is approved, you will receive an approval notice and your I-94 card stamped "asylum granted indefinitely." You are now living in the U.S. with "asylee" status. With the I-94, you can apply for a Social Security number and work legally without a work permit.

Are asylum seekers allowed to work? ›

The Immigration Rules

paragraph 360 sets out that asylum seekers may apply for permission to work if they have not received an initial decision on their claim within 12 months but this will only be considered if that delay was through no fault of the applicant.

Videos

1. Bus full of migrants from Texas arrives in NYC
(Eyewitness News ABC7NY)
2. Cardinal Dolan to meet with asylum seekers in New York City
(Eyewitness News ABC7NY)
3. NYC Mayor Eric Adams Welcomes Asylum Seekers Bused From Texas
(NBC News)
4. NYC officials react to Texas governor sending buses of migrants
(CNN)
5. Migrant Surge Strains NYC, D.C. Resources
(MSNBC)
6. Adams says NYC will continue to support asylum seekers
(CBS New York)

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