Harlem United Stands with Migrants and Asylum Seekers
Recently, New York City has seen an influx of asylum seekers and other migrants, in a chilling political stunt by Republican governors that has strained our already overburdened shelter system. Harlem United calls on city, state, and federal leaders to address the needs of persons seeking asylum while continuing to tackle long-term health and housing disparities that have long plagued this great city.
A creative solution to the housing crisis is required. NYC’s traditional model of emergency shelter is not built to satisfy the unique needs and current crisis faced by asylum seekers residing in NYC. Several proposals for housing the recently arrived migrants, like the tent shelters built on Randalls Island, are woefully inadequate and dehumanizing.
Any solution should include local non-profits, churches, community boards, immigrant groups, and the asylum seekers themselves. While the circumstances of asylum seekers in NYC may appear uniform – a lack of housing, benefits, documentation, medical care, and safe options for work – their experiences and the tragedies that brought them here deserve a specialized response.
New York City’s housing response should provide the necessities, more than a tent city, so people can recover and thrive. These new homes must also respect family composition, which for much of Latin America and many immigrant households, includes persons outside the nuclear family. Any real housing option must be inclusive and respect this reality.
At the core of the current crisis is the need for a comprehensive affordable housing plan for all our unhoused neighbors, including asylum seekers and other migrants. This plan must fully fund social service providers to allow us to provide high-quality services.
For decades, Harlem United has provided housing and lifesaving healthcare to those most in need, regardless of their ability to pay or citizenship status. For too long, we have worked within a social service system that is insufficiently funded to tackle New York’s ongoing homelessness crisis. Our leaders have failed to invest in real community-based solutions, meaning our current crisis is taxing an already over-stressed, inadequate shelter system. We, alongside other non-profits and community groups, are the frontline of any effective public health response. We are eager and ready to provide support and expertise in this current crisis and beyond.
The administration should provide easy access to housing, mental health services, doctors, and legal advocates for asylum seekers. Finally, migrants and asylum seekers desire access to fair and honest work. For centuries, immigrant populations have come to New York City, seeking safety, opportunity, and a new start. If we all work together, we can make those dreams of stability a reality.