Newly arrived asylum seekers in New York face difficulties in settling down

By Xinhua
On 11 October 2022 at 09:08

NEW YORK, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) — The thousands of newly arrived asylum seekers in New York City, the most populous city in the United States, are facing multifaceted challenges in taking roots amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Antonio Ovando, who arrived in New York City less than a week ago, was expecting some people from the city to bring some clothes on Sunday afternoon when he joined his family members and fellow asylum seekers around the entrance of a hotel in Staten Island.

Ovando told Xinhua that he arrived in Texas at the end of September, and then was advised to come to New York assuming they could get material support there.

"We have no clothes and no shoes. And we ran out of money," Ovando said.

Ovando stays with his wife and two young children in Comfort Inn on Staten Island, which is far from the downtown area and was recently converted into a shelter center for asylum seekers.

New York City has contracted over 40 hotels across the city to accommodate over 17,000 asylum seekers since April 2022.

Some migrants waiting outside the hotel were in their shorts, when the temperature in New York City had fallen to around 10 Celsius degrees.

It was reported that some asylum seekers from the Comfort Inn knocked on the doors of local residents and asked for help.

Ovando and other migrants finally picked up some clothes, which were dropped off by some New Yorkers at the hotel.

More importantly, asylum seekers don’t have work permits and have to wait for months, which adds to their anxiety and hardship.

Ovando, who worked as an accountant in Nicaragua, said he needs to find a job though he is thankful for help from others.

Jose, who came from Venezuela with his wife and son, said, "Getting a job is the most difficult thing for us who are here from far away."

"We don’t know how long we will stay here and we’re just following instructions," said Ovando.

As the vast majority of asylum seekers only speak Spanish, there is a language problem in everyday life and school.

Moreover, the newly arrived asylum seekers may find themselves unwelcome in the local community.

Shortly after the arrival of asylum seekers at the Comfort Inn, elected officials from Staten Island held a press conference voicing their opposition to placing migrants in the Comfort Inn, which is located in Travis-Chelsea neighborhood.

"Travis is not the place for these asylum seekers. It’s sad to say, but it’s just not going to work here," said Gene Guerra, president of the Travis Civic Association.

John Michael, a member of Travis Civic Association, posted a comment recently on the social media suggesting that community members hold a rally and protest against using the Comfort Inn and other hotels in the neighborhood as migrant shelters.

Meanwhile, New York City is building a humanitarian emergency response and relief center for asylum seekers on Randall’s Island in Manhattan borough.

Dubbed as a "tent city," the transitory relief center is designed to accommodate 500 newly arrived asylum seekers, but the island’s relative isolation, as local media reported, would not help migrants interact with the local community.

Last week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency in response to a record-breaking influx of asylum seekers into the city, mostly from the southern border of the United States.

Antonio Ovando (1st L), an asylum seeker who arrived in New York City less than a week ago, picks up clothes dropped off by New Yorkers outside a hotel in Staten Island, New York, the United States, on Oct. 9, 2022. (Xinhua/Liu Yanan)