After migrants bused to New York from US-Mexico border, hardships begin

NEW YORK – On a recent Wednesday morning, Jhonny Ramos stepped out into the 40-degree chill of midtown Manhattan, a bevy of concerns weighing in on him. 

He hadn’t found consistent paying jobs. With his immigration status up in the air, he didn’t have work authorization.

He needed to rush to the subway to get to a Western Union store in another borough, but the stitches from his recent appendectomy pulled at his skin, reminding him to walk slower so they don’t reopen.

Then he needed to make it back to the shelter in time so as not to miss his next meal. 

Most pressing, though: He needed to find a decent pair of pants. Ramos had only a pair of shorts and winter in New York was coming. 

The next day, seven miles away in the south Bronx, Ariadna Phillips slammed shut the tailgate of her Kia Sorrento. Soon, she would be helping children find shoes that fit and their parents a place to sleep. 

Her car was crammed with boxes of donated clothes, shoes, peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, apples and loaves of bread. Her phone was filled with WhatsApp contacts. Every migrant she met, she added to several group chats on the social media site, which fill with new questions each morning about how to survive in a new city.

In New York, Ramos and Phillips are on opposite ends of an immigration pipeline that began on the border with a bus ride

For much of 2022, long-haul bus rides have been orchestrated by Republican governors as a kind of political theater: divert asylums seekers out of their states and into liberal coastal cities. 

For many of the riders, though, that theater becomes a difficult reality: They step onto the buses with the promise of a new life in a new city and step off instantly homeless.

Ariadna Phillips, founder of South Bronx Mutual Aid, helps migrants at La Morada, a restaurant in the South Bronx that has become a safe haven for asylum seekers.

Since June, more than 20,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in New York City on buses from Texas and Arizona. Other buses have ferried migrants to Washington and Chicago.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis joined the fray briefly in September when he authorized flights of asylum-seekers from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, sparking widespread outcry.

More:Migrants were promised jobs, free housing before being taken to Martha’s Vineyard

Officials in Texas and Florida maintain that they only transport migrants who choose to reach those destinations. But after the buses roll away, asylum-seekers are left to navigate a foreign city without speaking the language, find a place to live with no relatives or sponsors to help them and feed themselves with no work lined up. 

A bus carrying Venezuelan migrants arrives from Martha's Vineyard, Sept. 16, 2022.

The result, in New York, means that thousands of those migrants end up in the city’s homeless shelter system, already strained near capacity with thousands of New Yorkers who had lost jobs and homes during the coronavirus pandemic and a decades-old housing crisis, advocates said.

As of Oct. 24, more than 63,000 people crowded the city’s homeless shelter system – a new historic high. Last month, Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency to deal with the crisis and directed workers to erect large temporary tents to handle the overflow.

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