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Hostility against migrants is rising upstate where NYC is sending asylum-seekers


New York City says it's overwhelmed by migrants and asylum-seekers, so officials have started sending people to nearby communities. But some of those localities have expressed hostility towards the new arrivals, and local nonprofits say they are stretched thin. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that there needs to be more guidance and support from the federal government. NPR's Jasmine Garsd has this report.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Johnson Coronel (ph) hopes Albany, N.Y., is the end of the line. He's 26 years old. A few months ago, he left Venezuela, escaping government violence. He requested asylum at the Texas border.

JOHNSON CORONEL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: Two shelters in Texas, then four days in Boston, then a shelter in New York City - he says that they were 12 people per room. When he was told Albany would be less crowded, he immediately agreed to go. New York City recently started bussing people upstate. Places like Albany, which is a sanctuary city, have agreed, but others have put up intense resistance.

PETER CRUMMEY: Sanctuary cities, they're all sanctuary until they have to be sanctuary.

GARSD: Peter Crummey is the town supervisor of Colonie, 20 minutes away from Albany. He's sued Albany and New York City. Colonie is not a sanctuary. On Memorial Day weekend, a bus with 24 people came from New York. Crummey says he was blindsided.

CRUMMEY: The federal government has created chaos in our country by not responding and making a plan for these folks.

GARSD: As angry as he is with New York, he's infuriated at the lack of guidance from the president and Congress.

CRUMMEY: The solution lies at the feet of the federal government because immigration is decidedly a federal issue. It's not a town issue. Immigration is not a town issue or a village issue.

GARSD: It's a sentiment that gets echoed throughout various towns in the area. Anthony Jerome (ph) lives in Rockland County, N.Y. They, too, recently received migrants and asylum-seekers from New York City.

ANTHONY JEROME: We can't afford it. We have too many people in the United States that are U.S. citizens, veterans of war and so on that need our help desperately.

GARSD: Rockland County has a temporary restraining order to keep asylum-seekers out. Jerome says he feels compassion for people asking for asylum in his area, but...

JEROME: Nobody signed in for that. People come to the suburbs and for this, thinking they're going to have a better life and safer environment because it's not only the fiscal problem. It's a safety issue. We don't know who these people are.

GARSD: Actually, these folks who have entered the U.S. recently as migrants or asylum-seekers have been screened by immigration authorities and allowed to pursue their cases within the U.S. But Jerome says he doesn't trust it.

Danny Irizarry says hostility towards immigrants in some of these towns is alarming. He's the chairman of Capital Latinos, an Albany nonprofit.

DANNY IRIZARRY: So we can greet them. We can clothe them. We can feed them to a degree. But then what happens to them once they try to assimilate into this local area that's not really friendly to them at all?

GARSD: Throughout New York state, organizations like his have been assisting. And considering how they're powered by volunteers, the list of comprehensive services Capital Latinos offers is impressive, but director Micky Jimenez says she's seen a 70% increase in the number of people they serve in the last year.

MICKY JIMENEZ: We need funding. There is no way that we can continue to provide the level of services that we're providing. You know, we're blessed with the incredible volunteers that we have, but they're getting tired, too.

GARSD: This is the one thing everyone seems to agree on. There needs to be more guidance and help from the government. Irizarry, Capital Latinos' board chairman, says, barring that, there at least should be a conversation on the local level.

IRIZARRY: You know, we're all living downstream of a failure - an epic failure of Congress to do immigration reform, right? But there is a question that needs to be answered. What does it mean to be a sanctuary city? It's not just enough to put up a sign. It's more important that you have services in place.


GARSD: A few miles south, Albany Victory Gardens provides help for migrants. President Mitchell Keyes says he doesn't understand the outrage.

MITCHELL KEYES: But there's a lot of jobs out here, and ain't nobody taking them. So if an immigrant comes to sign for a job - he's qualified, why not hire him?

GARSD: But it's not that easy. Coronel, the 26-year-old Venezuelan who recently arrived, is here today. He tells me he's gone into some of those stores with the help wanted signs and inquired. He gets told no one speaks Spanish or asked for a work permit, which, for an asylum-seeker, can take as much as two years to get. So for now, he's stuck again. No income, living in the shelter in a sanctuary city surrounded by towns where a lot of people don't want him.

CORONEL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: "We are tired," he says. "One day we're here. The next day we're there. It's time to say, this is it. We're staying here. This is home."

Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.