Immigrants Bused Out of New York City Seeking Asylum and Jobs Feel Hostility | Wagon Radio 720

NEWBURG, N.Y. (AP) — Before leaving his native West African country of Mauritania, Mohammed saw New York as a place of “open arms” acceptance, a haven for migrants fleeing dire circumstances. was

Now he is here seeking political asylum from a government he fears will kill him, but does not feel welcome. The 19-year-old is a pawn in a growing conflict between New York City and suburban and upstate communities that are using lawsuits, emergency orders, and political pressure to keep people like him out. It’s becoming

Mohammed said he has been trying to ease the pressure on the city’s overtaxed homeless shelter system, which this month will see some 400 international migrants stay at a handful of hotels in other parts of the state. is one of us.

Some of the relocated asylum seekers have now left the city, citing a lack of job opportunities and resources to proceed with their asylum applications, as well as a hostile response. Some say they regret it.

“New York City is better,” said Mohammed. “There, no one cursed you or told you to ‘go back to your country.'”

The Associated Press withheld his full name at the request of Mohammed to protect the safety of his family in Mauritania. Mohammed said he joined a group of young people in his home country who condemned human rights abuses, including government corruption and ongoing allegations of slavery. A few days later, he said, a group of men threw him into an unmarked car, took him to a secret room, and beat him severely over two days.

After traveling across the U.S.-Mexico border, he ended up in a shelter in New York City, which was terrifying and overcrowded. At a shelter in Brooklyn, someone stole his last belongings from his 40-bed room while he slept.

So when aid workers offered him the chance to relocate earlier this month, promising more space and work opportunities, Mohammed accepted. He joined other asylum seekers at two hotels about two hours north of Newburgh, a small city in the Hudson River Valley, a few miles away.

Republican county officials accused the city of creating trouble for their neighbors by implying the new immigrants pose a danger.

Last week, Orange County Chief Executive Stephen Neuhaus won a temporary restraining order barring the city from sending more immigrants. More than 20 other counties in New York State have declared states of emergency to block the arrival of immigrants, even where they weren’t scheduled.

Niagara County officials have warned of imminent security threats as far as 400 miles (644 km) north of the city and will impose criminal penalties on hotels found hosting asylum seekers. Declared.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, said he would continue efforts to disperse some of the more than 40,000 asylum seekers currently managed by the city.

Meanwhile, some who participated in the first wave of migration have since returned to New York City’s shelter system. People like Mohammed, who don’t have transportation money, say they’re stuck.

“It’s like a desert,” said Mohammed, who studied law in Mauritania and taught himself English. “There is nothing here for us.”

Some asylum seekers said outreach activists said the local economy needed off-the-books migrant workers, and described a sense of being lured to the upstate under false pretenses. Instead, they have been subjected to a series of harassment.

Amy Belcher, an attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said of the phenomenon that the Associated Press reporter also witnessed: “There are people in big pickup trucks who are constantly saying, ‘Go back to your country.'”

“This is a completely predictable outcome as local county officials have jumped on the bandwagon of immigration bans,” she added. The NYCLU has filed lawsuits against Orange and Rockland counties alleging discrimination against immigrants.

Orange County attorney Richard Golden said accusing the county of promoting xenophobia was “absolutely ridiculous.” He said the county’s lawsuit against the city was based on a 2006 state executive order requiring municipalities to meet certain requirements before moving homeless people.

Misinformation among locals did not help, including false claims that migrants had evacuated homeless veterans in the hotel, but the widely circulated story fell apart.

Peruvian Johnny Neira gave a more mixed assessment of his days at Newburgh. A 39-year-old asylum seeker visited the church recently on Sunday and said he felt welcomed by the congregation, although he did not understand the sermons in English.

“I’m a polite and hardworking person,” he said in Spanish. “I think they will trust me if they get to know me.”

The number of border crossings between the United States and Mexico has declined since May 11, when the Biden administration introduced new rules aimed at encouraging immigrants to apply for asylum online rather than entering illegally. But New York and other immigration destinations are still dealing with thousands of people who entered the United States before the new rules went into effect.

The Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh currently attracts men from Latin America, Senegal, Egypt, Mauritania and Russia. They speak French, English, and Spanish as they kick soccer balls in hotel parking lots, next to diners, and through highway mazes. A few yards away, a former barber in Venezuela offered a $5 haircut while another was cleaning.

To obtain asylum in the United States, one must prove a “well-founded fear of persecution” for race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Mohamed’s experience is in line with a US State Department report revealing that Mauritania is overseeing a growing crackdown on political dissidents from 2021, citing allegations of torture in unofficial detention centers. ing.

Jaya Ramzi-Nogales, a professor of asylum law at Temple University, said that if his story passes a credibility check, it is likely to be a legitimate asylum application. But getting to that stage requires navigating the immigration system under intense strain.

“The system has always been under-resourced, but now it really hits the breaking point,” Ramzinogales said. “There is no political will to save the money needed to function.”

Mohamed said his goal was to file an asylum suit, but he said he came to believe that would be impossible in Newburgh. A few days ago, he missed an important immigration appointment when the car that was supposed to take him to the city didn’t show up.

“You can’t just sleep here, eat, and then sleep again,” he said. “If there is no progress in the case, they will send you back home. To me, that is very bad.” Immigrants Bused Out of New York City Seeking Asylum and Jobs Feel Hostility | Wagon Radio 720

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