Nearly 2,000 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, New York City could see the arrival of more migrants as a result of the end of Title 42 pandemic restrictions on asylum cases, prompting officials to look beyond city borders to house migrants. Long Island officials weigh in on what this means for the area. Newsday TV's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez; Photo Credit: AP/Gregory Bull

Several hundred asylum-seeking migrants are living on Long Island, having moved to Nassau and Suffolk counties in the past few months after crossing into U.S. southern border states and being bused to New York City.

The pace of new arrivals, according to Mayor Eric Adams, is expected "to rapidly accelerate" due to last week’s expiration of a Trump-era expulsion policyrenewed by the Biden administration until this year, that had been in place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

With arrivals unabating, Adams is seeking to lighten the load on the city, which has placed migrants in hotels, shelters and elsewhere. Adams wants to place migrants in surrounding counties — an effort that has been met with resistance from some suburban officials.

The county executives of Nassau and Suffolk, Bruce Blakeman and Steve Bellone, say New York City hasn’t asked to house migrants in either place.

Neither Blakeman nor Bellone offered specifics of how their counties would deal with migrants if sent to places like local hotels.

Bellone said Tuesday: “It falls in your lap, and you’ve gotta address it, and we’re committed to doing that in a responsible, fiscally responsible and a humane way as well."

Even as Blakeman wouldn't disclose his plan, he said a day earlier that he has one.

“New York City has chosen to be a sanctuary city,” he said. “They’ve invited people there, and we have not.”

But the Adams administration does hope to send migrants to Long Island.

Asked by Newsday at a briefing Wednesday why the city has placed migrants in nearby counties like Orange and Rockland but not in Nassau and Suffolk, Adams' deputy for health and human services, Anne Williams-Isom, said: "not yet."

"Honestly, we're looking at every single county," she said.

In Riverhead, Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar signed an executive order Tuesday prohibiting all facilities in the town from accepting migrants from New York City. Aguiar said that allowing anywhere to accept “an influx” of migrants would create a nuisance.

Blakeman and Aguiar were among a series of Republican elected officials statewide to speak out this week opposing the potential influx of asylum-seekers, including at a news conference on Monday organized by the New York State Association of Counties, a lobbying force in Albany.

The fraction of asylum-seekers who have gone out to Long Island — originally from Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala and elsewhere — are starting new lives in Bellport, Brentwood, Flanders, Hempstead, Mastic, Westbury and Wyandanch, among other communities, according to advocates on Long Island.

“Compared to New York City, it’s a lot more quieter and a lot more spacious,” said Yaritza Mendez, co-director of organizing at Make the Road New York in Brentwood, an organization that connects migrants with help understanding the asylum process and other services. Mendez said that the basis for some of the asylum claims are violence and political issues in migrants’ home countries. 

So far, at least 67,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in New York City, according to Adams’ office, with an estimated cost to taxpayers projected to range from $2.7 billion to $4.3 billion.

Since last spring, the city has been beset with asylum-seekers who have been encouraged to board buses for the long journey north, including to Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. as well. The trips are sponsored by governors of U.S. border states, and the mayor of at least one border town, El Paso, Texas, in protest of what they see as President Joe Biden’s failure to secure the border.

The recently-lifted expulsion policy had been authorized under Title 42 of federal law, and was invoked because of the pandemic to keep people from entering the country and bringing in disease.

Although it’s “too early” to tell the long term effects of dropping the Title 42 policy, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN on Sunday, migrant border crossings were down 50% in the days since the policy was dropped, compared to a week earlier.

Title 42 notwithstanding, those who enter the United States and file for asylum are eventually given hearing dates, which typically are calendared for years into the future, and the majority are ultimately denied permission to stay in the country, according to the TRAC data research center at Syracuse University.

New York City — which is under a long-standing, and highly unusual, legal mandate to provide housing to whoever needs it, typically homeless people — has struggled to cope with the migrant influx. 

Migrants have been housed in public school gyms, a plan that led to at least one protest by students and parents, on Tuesday, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “We need recess!!!” read one boy's sign with two frowns drawn in marker.

The city has sought to place migrants in counties to the north: Judges in Orange and Rockland granted local officials’ requests to temporarily suspend a city plan to house several hundred at hotels there. The New York Civil Liberties Union is suing those two counties for their policies blocking relocation.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has committed about $1 billion to help deal with the migrant crisis.

Among the 400 locations in the region that have been considered to house migrants is the abandoned psychiatric hospital site at Kings Park, according to a New York City official.

On the Island, the migrants typically are living with family, or with friends, or with friends of friends, or some other connection, having taken the Long Island Rail Road or hitched a ride out to the Island.

Migrants are enrolling their children in local schools, which cannot legally deny a child an education based on immigration status, and finding jobs, likely off the books, in fields like construction, Mendez said.

“If you don’t have a Social Security, or you don’t have a worker’s permit, it may be more challenging for you to be able to find employment,” she said. But, “I’ve seen, actually, people waiting to either be picked up early in the mornings, or the jornaleros, or the folks that are actually working in the construction field, that is the highest demand and the ones that is mostly visible,” said Mendez, using a Spanish word for day laborers.

While some of the migrants are single, working-age men, others are families with children, and it isn’t always easy to enroll them in school, Mendez said.

“For some, it’s been a challenge of just being able to navigate the language barrier more than anything and just trying to identify the places where they’re able to enroll them and getting the support that they need in the language that they’re speaking,” she said.

So far this year, at least 487 migrant children have arrived in Suffolk and 287 in Nassau; a portion of those children had been first bused to New York City, said Martha Maffei, executive director of the Patchogue-based, Latina advocacy group Sepa Mujer, which is also in Central Islip, Huntington Station, Riverhead and Hampton Bays.

A Spanish hotline maintained by the group receives at least four calls a day, in addition to walk-ins, for help from migrants who recently have arrived from the city, she said.

The group, which is funded by the government and private foundations, can help migrants with rental assistance for one or two months, legal representation, cash for food and other needs, as well as finding vaccinations for infectious diseases.

Maffei faulted local governments for failing to plan adequately for the migrant influx.

“I think Long Island has not been prepared, even though this is a problem, or a situation, that we knew that was going to come,” she said, “but there is no plan of how we are going to be dealing with the new immigrants in Long Island.”

With Robert Brodsky, Michael Gormley and Steve Langford

Several hundred asylum-seeking migrants are living on Long Island, having moved to Nassau and Suffolk counties in the past few months after crossing into U.S. southern border states and being bused to New York City.

The pace of new arrivals, according to Mayor Eric Adams, is expected "to rapidly accelerate" due to last week’s expiration of a Trump-era expulsion policyrenewed by the Biden administration until this year, that had been in place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

With arrivals unabating, Adams is seeking to lighten the load on the city, which has placed migrants in hotels, shelters and elsewhere. Adams wants to place migrants in surrounding counties — an effort that has been met with resistance from some suburban officials.

The county executives of Nassau and Suffolk, Bruce Blakeman and Steve Bellone, say New York City hasn’t asked to house migrants in either place.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Several hundred asylum-seeking migrants are living on Long Island after first arriving in New York City.
  • Nassau and Suffolk executives Bruce Blakeman and Steve Bellone say New York City hasn’t asked to house migrants in either county.
  • But the Adams administration hopes to place migrants in surrounding counties such as Nassau and Suffolk, his deputy suggested Wednesday.

Neither Blakeman nor Bellone offered specifics of how their counties would deal with migrants if sent to places like local hotels.

Bellone said Tuesday: “It falls in your lap, and you’ve gotta address it, and we’re committed to doing that in a responsible, fiscally responsible and a humane way as well."

Even as Blakeman wouldn't disclose his plan, he said a day earlier that he has one.

“New York City has chosen to be a sanctuary city,” he said. “They’ve invited people there, and we have not.”

But the Adams administration does hope to send migrants to Long Island.

Asked by Newsday at a briefing Wednesday why the city has placed migrants in nearby counties like Orange and Rockland but not in Nassau and Suffolk, Adams' deputy for health and human services, Anne Williams-Isom, said: "not yet."

"Honestly, we're looking at every single county," she said.

In Riverhead, Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar signed an executive order Tuesday prohibiting all facilities in the town from accepting migrants from New York City. Aguiar said that allowing anywhere to accept “an influx” of migrants would create a nuisance.

Blakeman and Aguiar were among a series of Republican elected officials statewide to speak out this week opposing the potential influx of asylum-seekers, including at a news conference on Monday organized by the New York State Association of Counties, a lobbying force in Albany.

Starting new lives

The fraction of asylum-seekers who have gone out to Long Island — originally from Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala and elsewhere — are starting new lives in Bellport, Brentwood, Flanders, Hempstead, Mastic, Westbury and Wyandanch, among other communities, according to advocates on Long Island.

“Compared to New York City, it’s a lot more quieter and a lot more spacious,” said Yaritza Mendez, co-director of organizing at Make the Road New York in Brentwood, an organization that connects migrants with help understanding the asylum process and other services. Mendez said that the basis for some of the asylum claims are violence and political issues in migrants’ home countries. 

So far, at least 67,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in New York City, according to Adams’ office, with an estimated cost to taxpayers projected to range from $2.7 billion to $4.3 billion.

Since last spring, the city has been beset with asylum-seekers who have been encouraged to board buses for the long journey north, including to Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. as well. The trips are sponsored by governors of U.S. border states, and the mayor of at least one border town, El Paso, Texas, in protest of what they see as President Joe Biden’s failure to secure the border.

Lengthy hearing process

The recently-lifted expulsion policy had been authorized under Title 42 of federal law, and was invoked because of the pandemic to keep people from entering the country and bringing in disease.

Although it’s “too early” to tell the long term effects of dropping the Title 42 policy, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN on Sunday, migrant border crossings were down 50% in the days since the policy was dropped, compared to a week earlier.

Title 42 notwithstanding, those who enter the United States and file for asylum are eventually given hearing dates, which typically are calendared for years into the future, and the majority are ultimately denied permission to stay in the country, according to the TRAC data research center at Syracuse University.

A rally last week at City Hall in Manhattan marked the...

A rally last week at City Hall in Manhattan marked the end of Title 42. Credit: Getty Images/Michael M. Santiago

New York City — which is under a long-standing, and highly unusual, legal mandate to provide housing to whoever needs it, typically homeless people — has struggled to cope with the migrant influx. 

Migrants have been housed in public school gyms, a plan that led to at least one protest by students and parents, on Tuesday, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “We need recess!!!” read one boy's sign with two frowns drawn in marker.

The city has sought to place migrants in counties to the north: Judges in Orange and Rockland granted local officials’ requests to temporarily suspend a city plan to house several hundred at hotels there. The New York Civil Liberties Union is suing those two counties for their policies blocking relocation.

Hochul commits $1 billion

Gov. Kathy Hochul has committed about $1 billion to help deal with the migrant crisis.

Among the 400 locations in the region that have been considered to house migrants is the abandoned psychiatric hospital site at Kings Park, according to a New York City official.

On the Island, the migrants typically are living with family, or with friends, or with friends of friends, or some other connection, having taken the Long Island Rail Road or hitched a ride out to the Island.

Migrants are enrolling their children in local schools, which cannot legally deny a child an education based on immigration status, and finding jobs, likely off the books, in fields like construction, Mendez said.

Newly arrived asylum seekers wait Monday in a holding area at...

Newly arrived asylum seekers wait Monday in a holding area at the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan before being sent to area shelters and hotels. Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

“If you don’t have a Social Security, or you don’t have a worker’s permit, it may be more challenging for you to be able to find employment,” she said. But, “I’ve seen, actually, people waiting to either be picked up early in the mornings, or the jornaleros, or the folks that are actually working in the construction field, that is the highest demand and the ones that is mostly visible,” said Mendez, using a Spanish word for day laborers.

Family challenges

While some of the migrants are single, working-age men, others are families with children, and it isn’t always easy to enroll them in school, Mendez said.

“For some, it’s been a challenge of just being able to navigate the language barrier more than anything and just trying to identify the places where they’re able to enroll them and getting the support that they need in the language that they’re speaking,” she said.

So far this year, at least 487 migrant children have arrived in Suffolk and 287 in Nassau; a portion of those children had been first bused to New York City, said Martha Maffei, executive director of the Patchogue-based, Latina advocacy group Sepa Mujer, which is also in Central Islip, Huntington Station, Riverhead and Hampton Bays.

A Spanish hotline maintained by the group receives at least four calls a day, in addition to walk-ins, for help from migrants who recently have arrived from the city, she said.

The group, which is funded by the government and private foundations, can help migrants with rental assistance for one or two months, legal representation, cash for food and other needs, as well as finding vaccinations for infectious diseases.

Maffei faulted local governments for failing to plan adequately for the migrant influx.

“I think Long Island has not been prepared, even though this is a problem, or a situation, that we knew that was going to come,” she said, “but there is no plan of how we are going to be dealing with the new immigrants in Long Island.”

With Robert Brodsky, Michael Gormley and Steve Langford

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