In New York, migrants at a city-run shelter grumbled because their relatives, who had settled earlier, refused to give them a lift. In Chicago, providers of mental health services for those arriving illegally are making the rounds to new migrants sleeping in a police station across the street. In South Florida, some immigrants complained that those who came later were instead getting work permits, something they otherwise would not have been able to obtain.
This condition has raised concerns from many parties, including New York State Senator, Gustavo Rivera.
“We are here to show that we welcome migrants, that we will not stand for the callousness and hatred and racism displayed across the street. And we will defend our new neighbors,” he said.
Across America, mayors, governors and other officials are helping newly arrived migrants find shelter and work permits. Their actions and the new regulations that have come into force, have caused tension among immigrants who have been in this country for years or decades but do not have the same privileges, especially regarding work permits.
Meanwhile, on the other hand, a number of newly arrived immigrants feel that immigrants who are already “established” in America, welcome them coldly.
Work Permits for All
Thousands of immigrants demonstrated this month in Washington to demand that President Joe Biden extend work authorization for migrants who have long lived in America. A number of posters read, “Work Permit for All!” and “I Have Waited 34 Years for a Work Permit.”
DPR member Jesus Chuy Garcia commented on this phenomenon.
“The ever-increasing wave of arrivals makes our immigration advocacy more challenging. “Their arrival has raised some tensions, some questions,” Garcia said.
Jesus Garcia is a Democratic member of the Chicago House of Representatives whose largely Latino district includes a large immigrant population.
Immigrants have waited decades for a chance to obtain a green card as proof of permanent resident status, both for legality and a pathway to citizenship.
Central American migrants wait in line outside The Roosevelt Hotel which the city is using as a temporary residence in New York City.
Asylum seekers must wait six months for work authorization. The process takes no more than 1.5 months for 80 percent of applicants, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
For those entering the border using the new lanes issued by the Biden administration, there is no waiting period at all. Under temporary legal status known as parole, 270,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela arrived throughout October through online registration with the support of financial sponsors. In addition, 324 thousand people received schedules to enter America via land crossings with Mexico, using an application called CBP One.
The government said in September that it would work to reduce waiting times for work permits to 30 days for those using the new route. By the end of September, the government had sent 1.4 million emails and text messages, notifying those who were eligible to work.
Jose Guerrero, who works in construction after arriving 27 years ago from Mexico, acknowledged that many new migrants are encouraged to leave their country. He said he wanted to receive the same treatment.
“We all have the right to come to this country for progress. The only problem is that immigrants who have just arrived can receive their documents quickly and for people like me, who have been here for years, the government doesn’t give us anything,” Jose said.
Guerrero now works in Homestead, Florida, about 63 kilometers south of Miami.
Handling Complicated Immigrants
The White House has asked Congress for $1.4 billion for food, shelter and other services for newly arrived migrants. The mayors of New York, Denver, Los Angeles and Houston wrote to President Joe Biden last month, asking for $5 billion in US funding, saying the migrant arrival had drained budgets and cut essential services.
The mayors also support temporary status, and work permits, for those already in the US longer term, but remain focused on new immigrants.
The influx of migrants has put many migrant service groups in financial trouble.
For decades, the Latino Service Center has provided drug abuse assistance to many immigrants living in Chicago without legal status.
“This is a pretty unique situation, one that we weren’t prepared for,” said Adriana Trino, the group’s executive director. “It has become a completely different space, the needs are very different,” he added.
Many organizations deny the existence of disputes and say they have been able to make ends meet.
“We try to strike a balance in serving both, people who have been here for several years and those who have just come, and so far we have been able to serve everyone,” said Diego Torres of the Latin American Coalition, which is helping the immigrants in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In Atlanta, the Association of Latin American Citizens said it had spent $50,000 this year on temporary shelter and other assistance for newly arrived migrants. Santiago Marquez, chief executive of this organization, admitted that he did not feel any resistance.
“Our main clients, most of them are immigrants, they understand the difficulties they face,” he said. “They’ve been through it. They understand it,” he added.
Immigrants Long Experience Injustice
It is easy to find immigrants who have lived in the United States for a long time, who are irritated by this unfair treatment.
A 45-year-old Mexican woman who came to the United States 25 years ago and has three American-born children said it was unfair when new immigrants obtained work permits before her. He earned US$150 a week harvesting sweet potatoes at Homestead.
“For humanitarian reasons, they give opportunities to migrants who have just arrived, so what is humanity for us?” said the woman, who asked to be identified only by her last name, Hernandez, because she feared deportation.
The demonstrations in Washington represent efforts by advocates to push for work grants to all migrants, regardless of when they arrive.
“This is a system that creates tension in our city, and at this moment creates conflict among neighbors,” said Lawrence Benito, chairman of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, amid demonstrations in Chicago last month. (ns/lt)