What’s behind the sudden influx of migrants in New York?

The surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border has made its way to New York City – and now may have an impact on Buffalo.

With hundreds of migrants arriving in New York City every day, Gov. Hochul is looking for places to house some of them in other parts of the state. She has not yet announced where that might be, but while in Buffalo last week, she said she was looking at all options, including dormitories on university campuses.

Rep. Nicholas Langworthy speaks about migrants, urges spending cuts amid debt-ceiling talks on Monday, May 22, 2023.

Charlie Specht

Here is a look at what is behind the sudden influx of migrants.

What was Title 42 and what happened to it?

Title 42 was the name of an emergency health authority that President Trump’s administration put into place in March 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It allowed U.S. officials to turn away migrants who came to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Associated Press.

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Migrants are entering the United States almost 2,000 miles away, but the issues related to that influx have landed on the doorstep of politicians and organizations across New York.

Before the pandemic, migrants could cross illegally, ask for asylum and be allowed into the United States. They were then screened and often released to wait out their immigration cases, which can take years.

Under Title 42, migrants were returned over the border and denied the right to seek asylum. U.S. officials turned away migrants more than 2.8 million times using the authority. Families and children traveling alone were exempt.

With the federal government announcing the end of the Covid-19 public health emergency at the end of the day May 11, Title 42 was lifted.

What are the new rules for border crossers?

Anyone who comes to the United States can ask for asylum. They are screened to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution in their homeland. Their case then goes to the immigration court system to determine if they can stay in the United States, AP reported.

The U.S. has said it will accept up to 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba as long as they come by air, have a sponsor and apply online first. The government also will allow up to 100,000 people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras into the U.S. who have family here if they, too, apply online. Border officials will otherwise deport people, including turning away 30,000 per month from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba, who will be sent back over the border to Mexico, according to AP.

Other migrants also may be allowed in if they apply through the CBP One app. Right now, 740 people per day have been allowed in using the app, which is being increased to 1,000 per day, the AP reported.

Why are so many asylum seekers ending up in New York City?

More than 70,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since the surge began, costing the city about $1 billion already, according to the New York Times. New York City officials say the cost could rise to as much as $4.3 billion.

The migrants are coming to New York through a mix of ways – some by bus tickets purchased by migrants themselves or purchased by nonprofits, some by buses chartered by other cities and others by plane.

New York City has been scrambling to find shelter for them in places including public school gyms, hotels and in giant tents on Randall’s Island, the Times reported.

What’s the impact in Buffalo?

There is a good chance that some of the migrants and asylum-seekers in New York City will end up in Buffalo. Gov. Kathy Hochul said last week while visiting Buffalo that the state is considering options including using SUNY campuses as potential sites to house the ongoing surge.

Buffalo was already experiencing an influx of migrants prior to the lifting of Title 42. Area agencies are also contending with migrants who had hoped to cross into Canada, but no longer can after the U.S. and Canada agreed to new policies in March.

Buffalo has a long history of welcoming migrants, largely because of its proximity to the Canadian border. 

In 2021, Census data showed that Buffalo’s population grew for the first time in 70 years, largely driven by immigrants and resettled refugees moving to the city.

Agencies in Buffalo, including the International Institute, Jewish Family Services, Journey’s End and Jericho Road Community Health Center – which operates the Vive asylum-seeker shelter – have been helping refugees and new immigrants here.

Last week, the leaders of seven counties in Western New York announced that they were seeking to block New York City from sending migrants to hotels in their areas. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he would not seek any such emergency order, calling such a move illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and “morally repugnant.”

Are migrants allowed to work?

Under current immigration law, migrants who are in the process of seeking asylum are barred from working for the first six months after filing their paperwork. On Monday, Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams held a news conference calling on the federal government to expedite work permits for the asylum seekers. Hochul also asked for more immigration judges to handle the surge of New York-based cases.

The New York Farm Bureau expressed support for the move for migrants “who have been properly processed and who want to work on farms in New York State,” while also saying that the measure is “a temporary band aid for a greater problem that must be solved in Washington, D.C.” 

2023-05-24 10:00:00