Home Homepage Feature Story #FOCUSDemocracy: Our Election: Migrant Crisis in NYC: What are students at Montclair State University Thinking?

#FOCUSDemocracy: Our Election: Migrant Crisis in NYC: What are students at Montclair State University Thinking?

by Alysa Toledo

The migrant crisis has taken the United States by storm, with hundreds of migrants entering the country nearly every day. The U.S. states with the highest influx of migrants, in recent years, are Texas, Florida, New Jersey and New York.

New York, specifically, is one of the states struggling the most with the sudden crowding in the streets and shelter systems. Not only does the state already have a large homeless population in New York City, it is unable to turn away anyone in need of a bed because of the 1981 Consent Decree. The 1981 Consent Decree originates from a lawsuit that ended up stating that any person asking for a bed is required to receive one.

Due to the vagueness of the law, New York City is not only required to give New York residents a bed when they are in need, but are required to provide housing and beds to the present and incoming migrants.

How did New York City become a primary destination for migrants? Not only was the Consent Decree publicized to migrants online, but by other states they were entering. For example, Texas and its governor Greg Abbott were holding migrants at the border and sending them to New York City on buses.

Since last spring, New York City mayor Eric Adams has spent time trying to craft a solution to the climbing number of migrants coming into the city as well as a solution for the city’s depleting budget. Mayor Adams has also wasted no time in calling out the Biden Administration and their seemingly quiet take on the situation.

The city’s budget has gone under a massive blow with the influx of migrants, forcing Mayor Adams to make 5% budget cuts across the board.

The residents were outraged when they realized that the New York Police Department (NYPD) and New York Fire Department (NYFD) were among the departments recieving cuts. Soon after, Mayor Adams reversed the budget cuts on those departments. Many believe he did it to apply pressure on the Biden administration.

The Biden administration consistently points out how it gave the city more than 140 million dollars, although the estimated costs of the migrant crisis is well over four billion dollars. By naming the NYPD and the NYFD in the budget, Adams made more residents speak out about the migrant crisis, which garnered more attention.

Back in July of 2023, Adams slammed Biden’s offer of a liaison as a solution to the issue at hand. At this time, the number of migrants coming into the United States was around 80,500 people from multiple different countries. As of April 2024, the number of migrants that have crossed the border is up to 182,000, with 80,582 in New York City alone.

With the sudden and growing number of migrants flooding shelters, warming centers and tents put up all over New York City, the city has been forced to implement limitations on people staying. Many migrants are waiting in lines tens of blocks long, with numbered tickets waiting for their chance to get a bed or safe space for the night.

Single adults get a limited stay of 30 days. Families with children get up to six weeks of stay before they are made to leave and either get back in line for another stay or find another place of residence.

Although most of the migrants have come to New York City solely because of the Consent Decree, the city cannot handle the growing numbers and has “run out of room.”

The homeless population in New York City is being greatly affected by the amount of migrants coming into the shelter system. Many are distraught at the shelter system becoming even more crowded.

Jayson Hull, a senior communication studies major at Montclair State University, commented on the state of homelessness in New York City.

“The homeless population should know by history that the government has not spent reasonable amounts of resources on the homeless,” Hull said. “They shouldn’t concern themselves about immigration policies as much as they should hold their local and federal government to the promise of social security for citizens.”

While the overcrowding in shelters becoming even more dire would upset anyone, the homeless population in New York City has been facing these issues for years and are not sympathetic to the migrants, who are just as vulnerable and in need of them, regardless of being a resident of the city.

Residents of New York City have begun to see the overcrowding as an opportunity of sorts. New York City resident and immigrant himself, Ebou Sarr, has been renting out spaces in his closed-down furniture stores as a place of residence for incoming migrants, but at a price. Sarr charges migrants 300 dollars a month for a bed, but he provides for them with a portion of the money he receives from them for housing.

Police issued vacate orders at his stores due to alleged “overcrowding” and stated there were “hazards” in place. Now, Sarr rents houses for the migrants, still charging the 300 dollars a month per migrant staying there. He is now looking for more houses to rent, stating that he just wants to help them.

Sarr sees himself in the migrants he helps to house, as he was once one of them. Many might say he is taking advantage of the migrants’ desperation to have somewhere to stay in the city now that they are here and waiting on work permits.

Hull shared his reaction to Sarr’s situation.

“It’s fair,” Hull said. “The government allowing asylum seekers access to a country they haven’t contributed to is already a great value. Asylum seekers would, in any situation, be expected to work and contribute to their own well-being.”

Kaylee Olivieri, a junior business major, also shared her thoughts towards Sarr.

“Honestly, I see it as some sort of win for both parties,” Olivieri said. “The migrants get a place to stay, and the man housing them gets paid for a good deed. Rent is crazy in New York, so to be able to stay in a house there for 300 dollars a month is a great deal, regardless of their situation. It also can give them a chance to secure a job, and save a great deal of money before they get their own place in the city or decide to move elsewhere.”

Aside from waiting on work permits in the city, which are hard for migrants to come by right now due to the number of applicants, a pilot program for prepaid debit cards, similar to EBT, food stamps and WIC cards and programs, is now being launched in New York City.

The prepaid debit cards are being distributed to migrant families, only to be used to buy food and baby supplies. The city is working with a company, called MoCaFi, to hand out 115 cards to migrant families.

Although this is just a pilot program lasting six weeks, the plan will cost the city a lot more money, in their already tight budget.

Hull says that the funds are a way to cater to migrants and their well-being.

“It’s a means to an end,” Hull said. “It’s a way to ensure dollars that are designated for migrants’ well-being [are] spent purposefully.”

Olivieri questions where the funds are coming from.

“I think it’s a great way for the migrant children to be fed and taken care of, but where is this money coming from?” Olivieri said. “The city says it’s over budget and essentially in debt because of the migrant crisis, so I’m interested to learn about how they are continuing to fund programs like this.”

Migrant advocates and supporters are trying to help the issue as much as they can, but the situation is constantly evolving. Numbers continue to climb and shelters continue to run out of space time and time again.

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