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The political bystander effect: politicians lack of action on the migrant crisis in New York

New York City protestors at an abolish ICE demonstration from December 2020. New York Representative Nicole Malliotakis proposed that NYC’s sanctuary policy should not be used to protect migrants. FELTON DAVIS VIA FLICKR CC-BY-2.0

The rise in violence and mayhem that is negatively impacting the lives of migrants and New Yorkers would cease if immigration laws, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act in New York City, were reformed. New York’s Representative Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY 11th District) proposed that New York City’s sanctuary policy should not be used to protect migrants. “Get them all and send them back,” Malliotakis said.

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows the United States to annually issue up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas in a wide range of categories. Asylum seekers now have the opportunity to cross international borders lawfully. In preparation for the now-displaced thousands of aliens, U.S. lawmakers and council members should arrange for adequate housing for the incoming migrants.

Despite the Immigration and Nationality Act, thousands of migrants have arrived in New York City in search of housing and sanctuary. Due to the overcrowding in shelters, many people have become homeless under harsh conditions. In fact, roughly 70,000 migrants are seeking refuge in overcrowded emergency shelters. 

The utilization of multiple locations as temporary housing for migrants has been proposed by the city to combat people huddling together and sleeping on sidewalks during winter temperatures. Migrants have been taken into hotels, school gymnasiums, office buildings and emergency tent shelters on Randall’s Island.  

One emerging trend among displaced migrants living in substandard housing is an increase in violence. Inadequate access to basic necessities such as food, shelter and medical care may cause discomfort, which in turn may trigger unpleasant, violent behaviors.   

On Jan. 27, at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Manhattan’s West 42nd St., an altercation arose between migrants and two New York City Police Department officers. The officers told a group of migrants to move to a different hotel location and were then allegedly assaulted by the group. The incident had been captured on nearby surveillance cameras. 

The assault led to outrage among New York citizens and lawmakers. Initially, four migrants were captured and released without bail. Currently, six perpetrators have been identified and charged. One suspect, Yohenry Brito, was held by prosecutors on a $15,000 bail during his arraignment and accused of orchestrating the assault. He is currently being held at Rikers Island.

Following this incident, residents of New York are demanding fair treatment and are not happy with the light consequences following this brutal attack. Many have questioned if the migrants are not being adequately reprimanded for violence.

I believe that New York City lawmakers and city council members never truly intended to help the lives of thousands of incoming migrants. Their ineffective relocation of migrants into public school gymnasiums is only causing outrage from parents of public high schoolers and leaving New Yorkers feeling insecure about their safety. 

This lack of effective action can also be seen in the consistent pattern of legislators pushing out new ideas and bills to address the migrant crisis, only to follow them up with disappointing outcomes due to a lack of preparation that needs to have taken place before the migrant crisis. 

New York’s City District Two Council Member Carlina Rivera wants to implement a bill that would survey migrants in order to better understand their health conditions. While this may be beneficial, it doesn’t solve the issue of who is granted visa access before traveling to the U.S. Background checks and mental and physical health evaluations should be implemented before the crossing of borders. However, given the volume of immigrants who migrate annually, this may not be achievable. 

New York State Assembly Member Matt Slater (R,C-Yorktown) proposed a bill that would require migrants in New York City to undergo a background check before entry in May 2023. However, the last update known about this bill was that it was being referred to governmental operations on Jan. 3. This means that it’s in the process of being reviewed and revised, likely taking a while before it gets passed over to the Senate. 

In the midst of this chaos, New York City Mayor Eric Adams blames the migrant crisis on the national immigration policy. “‘And I kept saying this over and over again. We’re going to start seeing the visualization of the failure of the policy,’” Adams said. “‘We’re seeing the visual of what a failed national policy is producing.’”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced her intention of passing $2.4 billion in aid to handle the massive influx of migrants. The proposal reinforced demands for increased support from the federal government to the state and offered asylum seekers shelter services and legal counsel. In addition, it would take an accurate count of the number of people who are allowed entry, and provide sufficient housing accommodations for migrants to stay in before assigning blame for this problem. Having a concrete plan for the thousands of incoming individuals is crucial.

The issue of inadequate support and overcrowding should be tackled at a faster rate than lawmakers are doing now — especially because thousands of lives are being affected by their underpreparation. 

A good way for lawmakers to strive for change would be reasonable penalties for violent crimes. Any behavior deemed intolerable should result in deportation. Although criminal activity will inevitably occur within any community, lawmakers should push legislation that requires background checks for everyone applying for a visa. The population of the state of New York City is well over eight million. It’s critical to maintain track of who is permitted entry.

The present immigration crisis in New York City emphasizes the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform as well as proactive measures to address the difficulties encountered by both migrants and locals. The spike in violence and homelessness among immigrants highlights how ineffective current policies are and how urgently we need better ones. 

To ensure the safety and well-being of incoming migrants while maintaining public security, lawmakers must give priority to providing them with appropriate housing and support services. Keeping the peace and holding people accountable requires enacting fair punishments for violent crimes and conducting thorough background checks on those applying for visas. Politicians should also put more effort into creating comprehensive plans for housing and caring for migrants, realizing how significantly thousands of lives are negatively impacted by their present lack of preparation.

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