The Migration Issue and its Effects on the West Village
By Mia Isacson
There has been a massive influx of immigrants coming to New York with almost 100,000 people having entered since the spring of 2022. In this article, I’ll be examining the situation and what this means for the West Village.
The immigrants have been coming from different countries and for different reasons. Most recently, there has been an inflow from Venezuela because of the drastic economic decline that country has been facing. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calls this the second largest displacement in the world, with more than seven million migrants leaving Venezuela for countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the U.S. This is out of a nation of just 29 million people. Though a lot of migrants chose to go to New York, a place known for welcoming immigrants (it’s inscribed on the Statue of Liberty!), many were denied the choice by Texas officials. Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, chartered buses that sent more than 13,100 migrants to New York City in the past year to pressure the federal government to tighten border control. Mayor Eric Adams has called this a “political stunt” and “dehumanizing.”
These inflows of people have put the city in a difficult position. New York City has always prided itself on offering shelter to immigrants, but the city is running out of space. The homeless shelter population hit record numbers last fall and has only grown since. Because of that, emergency tent shelters have been built on Randalls Island, in school gymnasiums, on parking lots, in hospitals, hotels, and even restaurants. New York City has had to open 194 new homeless shelters from whatever space they could find to accommodate the migrants. Mayor Adams even considered housing migrants on a cruise ship.
The people who are fortunate enough to stay in a shelter are enduring horrific conditions. There are 80 to 90 people sharing two bathrooms, the meals are scarce and fights have been breaking out. Anne Williams-Isom, the New York deputy mayor for health and human services comments, “It is heartbreaking” and “When I see the little kids in the Roosevelt I wonder, why does no one care? I don’t understand why nobody cares.”
Because of the lack of space, the mayor is trying to get a judge to relieve the city’s “right to shelter law.” Adams says that this will cost the city $12 billion over the next three years, therefore he is asking the federal government for funding. President Biden has ignored his plea and Adams stated that, “President Biden has failed the city.” Since then, the mayor has discouraged immigrants from seeking refuge in New York City by handing out pamphlets at the border. The situation should ease though since a lot of immigrants will most likely leave because other parts of the country and Canada have been encouraging them to come and help their economy.
Though the circumstances are not recommended, there are a lot of advantages to immigration—including for our community here in the Village. There haven’t been many recorded immigrants coming to West Village yet, but we can only assume that when the new immigrants settle in, they may move here, and certainly their children will want to be here to enjoy all it has to offer. The Village has always been a place where immigrants have settled starting when Chinese immigrants came in the late 20th century. And now the Village will likely once again become a magnet for immigrants escaping overcrowding in other parts of Manhattan such as the Lower East Side.
A letter written in 2017, and signed by nearly 15,000 economists, explained the benefits of immigration. Immigrants would pay taxes that would go to support Greenwich Village schools and other necessities. They highlight that 48% of immigrants are older than the age of 25 and are college graduates, so they would create businesses in the Village and help grow the economy. The West Village is not exempt from the labor shortage around America. Like all people, the immigrants also have dreams. For example, Ms. Antonilez, a recently arrived Venezuelan immigrant says, “My dream is to have a restaurant because what I love most is cooking.” Immigration will also add more diversity to our community. Our neighbors will have different traditions and perspectives. The kids in local schools will be able to learn about these new cultures, customs, and languages.
The people of the Village should be happy about this new development. Local business owner Alison Cayne highlights that “People coming from other countries have always been an important part of our workforce,” and that she is “looking forward to welcoming them!”
Mia Isacson is a sophomore at Phillips Academy Andover studying to work in Political Science. She grew up in the West Village and claims New York City is the best place on the planet Earth.