Black Migrants, New York Shelter, Discrimination

New York Shelter System Criticized Over Discrimination Of Black Migrants

Jumaane D. Williams, the New York City Public Advocate, believes the hearing is a good first step toward potentially addressing some of the inequities present in the city’s migrant assistance system.

On April 16, thousands of Black immigrants rallied in City Hall Park outside a hearing about racial inequities in New York’s shelter and immigrant support systems.

The council deliberated minor proposals such as collecting better data on migrants and eliminating or reimbursing application fees. 

As ABC News reported, council members are asking for better data because some evidence shows Black migrants are disproportionately turned away from shelters, denied access to assistance using their native languages, and are less likely to be able to access accommodations for their religious practices. 

As USA Today reported, Alexa Avilés, the chair of the city council’s immigration committee, said at the hearing that Black immigrants have been facing barriers to receiving assistance from the city’s shelters. “Over the past two years, Black immigrant newcomers have faced especially stark barriers in accessing city services.”

Jumaane D. Williams, the New York City Public Advocate, said in a press release that he believes the hearing was a good first step toward potentially addressing some of the inequities in the city’s migrant assistance system. 

“Black migrants have shared their experiences facing racism and anti-Blackness within a system that historically deports, detains, and confines Black migrants at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group,” Williams said. “These are realities the city has to grapple with, and to make any progress, we must hear directly from those living these realities. From the local to the federal level, my office and I have been calling for greater resource allocation for Black migrants, and this hearing is a great starting point.” 

Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, continued, “Language accessibility is a lifeline for immigrants and opens doors to legal services, housing, economic empowerment, and other opportunities…Many of these migrants are navigating an entirely new city, culture, language, and system after what may have been a long and harrowing journey just to get here. On top of all that, they may face increased scrutiny, xenophobia, and racism just by nature of being a Black immigrant. The city, among the existing and future resources it provides and distributes, must ensure that, at minimum, there is equity of resources above all else.”

Williams also criticized the efforts of state leaders like New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and pushed for more federal assistance during his comments at the hearing.

“I want to remind folks that applying for asylum is a legal way to be in this city—and also push the White House to do more, and Governor Hochul to do more, they are not,” Williams said. “New York City cannot do this by itself. I do know there is a gargantuan effort, and with some of those efforts, I just want to thank the city for trying, but we do know that even as we await more resources, we have to make sure those resources are applied equitably and humanely and we have some work to do in those two categories.”

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