For more than a year and a half the Venezuelan, “Jacinta Pérez”, 35 years oldas she asked to be identified in this interview, had been hearing that in her town in the state of Zulia, specifically in Perijá, there were “packages” that for a fee of dollars would cross your street. Darién jungle and they facilitated the entire route to search for the “American dream”. Today the South American, her husband and their 10-year-old son, after a “hellish” journey of three months and 18 days, are in the Big Apple, penniless, in a crowded temporary shelter in the Bronx, and facing the sharp reality that in his destination everything is drawn absolutely different from what his “promoters” of crossing described to him.
“When you get here you realize that nothing is as they paint it. Here in this city, there are people living on the streets. People who were born here and are waiting years for a decent space. And another, that even with papers, has a very bad time because everything is difficult. And if you don’t have papers in order, like us, imagine!” said Jacinta, just one of the thousands of immigrants who in recent weeks have arrived on buses to New York from Texas, then who illegally crossed the border.
Now Jacinta is in a shelter that she knows is a very temporary benefit.
But after hearing the “real experiences” of those who have spent more time there, he fears that when the harsh winter comes, everything it will be more hostile, complicated and dangerous.
This immigrant belongs to the group of 4,000 people, who in the last three months has arrived in New York from South American and Caribbean countriesrequesting shelter and economic aid from a saturated social services system that can work, yes, more quickly for those who have some type of migratory regularization.
The fact that these immigrants arrived in New York on buses, sent by the Texas government, was until recently “unofficial” information, which was confirmed last weekend by the Texan president himself, Greg Abbottwho admitted in a statement that he is sending groups of immigrants to New York and Washington DC, responding to what he describes as an “open borders policy of the administration of President Joe Biden that is overwhelming the communities of his state.”
About half are Venezuelans
In more than 50%, these new groups of immigrant asylum seekers, sent to the Big Apple, are from Venezuela. The rest of the Central American countries, Haiti and Cuba based on records from various organizations.
In the very specific case of recently arrived Venezuelan families, according to assessments by community-based organizations, they have been forced to emigrate due to a terrible economic and political crisis. Although in parallel, they are attracted by a series of false information about a supposed “special reception system” that these citizens are having in the United States.
“After going through a jungle and saving yourself from drowning in a river, you come to survive in a shelter where you see everything and understand nothing, because you don’t speak the language. Many people in my country make this mistake, because the same WhatsApp groups, the traffickers, the coyotes and the mafias that connect you through social networks, They sell the idea that as soon as you set foot on American soil, you enter a paradise. And I can attest that although things are very hard in my country, arriving like this, in conditions like mine, without family, without contacts, without English, it is likely that you will become a beggar,” the Venezuelan told The newspaper.
Other groups of other Latin American nationalities such as Ecuadorians, Colombians, Mexicans and Central Americans who have a decades-long history of “moving” to the Big Apple, generally do so to connect and ‘navigate’ the system with the help of family or friends.
NY and its own humanitarian crisis
Even before the pandemic, New York City had been facing what has been described as a humanitarian crisis, with a historic peak of “homeless” peopleonly comparable to the 1930s.
Until May of this year, they had 49,300 homeless peopleincluding 15,400 children, sleeping in city shelters.
Despite the calamities of access to housing in the Big Apple, the Venezuelan Jacinta Pérez, like hundreds of her compatriots, confess that they arrived supported by false versions of a ‘sanctuary city’ that automatically welcomes everyone with comfortable shelters and food stamps.
“Along the route, when you pay the first installments of money, they give you so-called phone numbers of organizations and offices that will help you make everything very easy. And nothing is true. They told me from my country that just because we are Venezuelans, Everything runs easy now with the papers and the help. And it’s totally false”, remarked Jacinta.
“There are no special immigration benefits”
In this sense, the Venezuelan Niurka Melendezleader of the non-governmental organization Venezuelan and Immigrants Aids (VIA) based in New York, since 2016, recalled that his compatriots began to forced to flee for several years, product of an increasingly complex humanitarian emergency.
“This new migratory wave of people, who arrive looking for temporary shelters in New York, then of having walked the Darien plug and submit to all the risks on that route, you have to analyze it more deeply. We must put at the center of all analysis, that they are human beings fleeing from a tragedy. But due to lack of information, they face other calamities that could be worse”, argues the activist.
Meléndez considers that it is time to put the seeing eye on myths, mafias and human traffickers that encourage desperate people to come walking, exposed to a series of criminal taxes, encouraged by alleged facilities or benefits that Venezuelan citizens have specifically.
“The first thing we must warn is that the entire social assistance system, especially in the matter of temporary shelters in New York City, is collapsed. Obviously, there are many support organizations, but with limited resources. And second, we must point out a thousand times to our compatriots, that It is not true that there are at this moment, automatic immigration benefits, for all those who dare to cross the border”, he stressed.
In Meléndez’s opinion, a whole apparatus of confusing information, disseminated especially by social networks, about supposed facilities in the migratory processes for Venezuelans, continues pushing thousands into a worse abyss to the daily reality that they live in their country.
There is no “paradise” for immigrants
That abyss, at all its levels, is known by the Venezuelan couple Crisman Urbaez and Anabel González and their two minor children, who upon arriving in New York last month. This family facing the challenges of finding shelter, were forced to sleep on the streets for a couple of days in midtown Manhattan, until a Mexican winemaker and community organizations reached out.
After being turned away at a center on West 40th Street in Manhattan, after days of calamity where they were sheltered in a warehouse, they were finally able to reach the City’s intake center, known as PATH, in the East 151st Street in the Bronx.
These young Venezuelans, since they managed to connect with the first shelter, have overcome the limits imposed by the City’s social assistance system.
The Venezuelan Robert Gonzalez of the organization “For the Love of Venezuela”, who offered support to this family, interprets that in the particular case of some of his countrymen who are arriving, they are facing a “monster with a thousand heads”, which is being dominated by “ignorance and misinformation”.
“There are many types of immigrants. But in this specific case, there is a group of human beings that is coming, looking for a paradise of immediate benefits, that someone falsely described to you, but that in reality does not exist. We must always reiterate as an organization and from activism: whoever decides to embark on this adventure in this way must take into account that On his way there may be two ways, death and survival.he concluded.
NY demands more federal resources
Although the Big Apple has the largest social safety net in the country, foreigners without legal status, they are not eligible for most housing assistance programs, rent stabilized, lottery, or Section Eight, which allows low-income residents to get an apartment. They also do not have access to SNAP coupons.
This can “condemn” to this segment of undocumented immigrants to be trapped in a shelter indefinitely.
However, the City of New York has a court order to provide temporary housing to anyone found to be homeless, and go to a reception centera policy known as the right to accommodation.
Last Sunday he arrived at the Terminal Port Authority a bus with 55 immigrants from Texas and more are expected to arrive this week, in the midst of a dispute where the Municipal Administration is demanding more federal funds to address this crisis in a shelter system that has already reached its peak.
“We need the support of the federal government, we already have 4,000 in the shelter system and all because of a governor who is playing with the lives of these people“, held Manuel Castrocommissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) in reference to the Texas Governor’s policy of sending these people to the so-called ‘sanctuary cities.
According to the municipal official, many of those who have come to the city without knowing what to do, without family, without any type of connection, therefore most go to the shelter system.
Mayor Eric Adams himself criticized the governments of Texas and Arizona for sending people to New York “without any type of communication or coordination.” Likewise, he promised to fulfill the task “as New Yorkers” and promised to receive and help migrants.
Indeed, sources from the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA), the agency that administers essential benefits like food assistance and rental assistanceindicate in the midst of this crisis, that everyone has the right to apply for emergency financial assistance funds, but “Not everyone is eligible.”
“each case is different. We must be responsible in remembering that to qualify for more stable housing and food programs, certain immigration status is required. We are open and receptive to help for those who need it. But it is important that people are well informed, before making important decisions”, an HRA spokesman said.
NYC and its overcrowding crisis
- 12% more overpopulated Where is the Big Apple’s temporary shelter system now compared to March?
- 21% of all immigrant New Yorkers live in overcrowded homes
- 8% of immigrants live in “extremely crowded” housing with more than 1.5 people per room.
- 90% of immigrants who ask for social assistance and request temporary shelters in the last two months in NYC, have crossed the southern border of the country.