City becoming minor player in migrant debate

Jamestown continues to find itself on the periphery of the larger state and national discussion of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is continuing to push Gov. Kathy Hochul to send more migrants to upstate cities — a move 65% of New York City voters polled in late January by Quinnipiac University agree with. The poll released this week sampled 1,310 registered New York City voters. Among the topics of local interest dealt with Adams’ mid-January proposal to send some of the migrants seeking sanctuary to areas of upstate New York with shrinking populations. Sampled voters approve of the idea by a 65% to 26% margin.

“Some of our cities are suffering. They’re losing populations,” Adams told the New York Post during a mid-January phone interview. “But if this is done, is done effectively, and the dollars come in to support those who are helping migrants and asylum seekers to incentivize this help, we believe we can … help those cities that are struggling and at the same time, give people a good start in this country.”

New York City is temporarily turning a cruise ship terminal into a shelter and services hub for asylum-seekers, according to a recent Associated Press report, with the city now having taken in 41,000 asylum-seekers since the spring of 2022.

Hochul didn’t mention Adams’ proposal during her budget address earlier this week, though the governor’s proposed budget includes a new framework to pay for help and support for asylum seekers — one-third for New York City, one-third for New York state and one-third for the federal government. Hochul also proposes spending more than $1 billion in the coming year on initiatives to support asylum seekers, including $5 million for enhanced migrant resettlement assistance that will be distributed to refugee resettlement agencies with which the state already has contracts. Another $25 million is proposed for resettlement fundin for asylum seekers through the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

In January, the New York Post reported several families from Colombia had settled in Jamestown, though both Mayor Eddie Sundquist and Dr. Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, told The Post-Journal the number of recent emigrees was nothing out of the ordinary. The Post report prompted five federal House of Representatives members — including Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-23, to send a letter to President Joe Biden trying to find out how many migrants who had reached the United States’ southern border had been relocated to New York state since January 20, 2021; what counties and municipalities migrants had been sent to in New York state and where migrants may be sent in the future; whether county, municipal and local law enforcement had been made aware of relocations; and the process in place to monitor the status and location of migrants who have been relocated.

“It’s wrong and unfair to place this burden on local communities because the White House has completely abdicated their responsibility to secure our border and require legal immigration,” Langworthy said in a news release. “I would invite the so-called “Border Czar” Vice President Harris to come visit the community I was born in, but I won’t hold my breath. If this is a problem in a city with 9 million people, imagine the strain it’s causing on a city the size of Jamestown.”

Refugee resettlement has been a topic locally for more than a year as a local group works with Journey’s End, an organization that helps refugees resettle in a new location, offers opportunities for adult education, helps refugees find employment and offers other programs and services for refugees and low-income immigrants in the western New York area. Journey’s End, a community-based organization with the mission of welcoming refugees, is currently utilizing space at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown for its local base of operations.

While Journey’s End has not started the actual resettlement of refugees in the Jamestown region, Fodor explained that roughly four Colombian families recently made their way to Jamestown. Although they are not a part of an official program, Fodor stressed the importance of the New Neighbors Committee playing a future role in helping officially welcome the new families into the community.

“That’s what the work of New Neighbors is really about,” he said. “It’s about how do we welcome people into our community. Instead of people kind of coming in and then taxing our resources or not having a system in place, being ready to welcome people, because they come all the time. How do we help welcome people in a way that really makes sense?”


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