Heard Around Town

Black migrants rally for better services at City Hall

Hundreds showed up for a hearing on Black immigrant experiences in New York.

The rally was aimed at “uplifting the experience of Black migrants.”

The rally was aimed at “uplifting the experience of Black migrants.” Gerardo Romo / NYC Council Media Unit

More than 1000 Black migrants lined up outside City Hall Tuesday morning ahead of the City Council’s oversight hearing on the experiences of Black migrants in New York City. The largest demonstration at City Hall this year, organized in part by African Communities Together, was held as the Committees of Hospitals and Immigration convened.

More than 180,000 migrants have arrived in New York City over the past two years. Many of the asylum-seekers came from African countries with tumultuous political conditions. Advocates have said that the city has not done enough for Black migrants. Council Member Crystal Hudson tweeted, “NYC has the largest Black immigrant population of any metro area. Our city is failing to meet the moment and properly support newly arrived migrants, including those from West Africa.”

Among the bills the council is considering are bills that would require the mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to develop and administer a workforce survey and an anonymous health survey of migrants and asylum-seekers. The council is also considering a resolution calling on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to eliminate filing fees. 

According to city data provided to Politico New York, 16% of migrants in the city’s care come from African countries, with 45 countries represented. Senegal and Mauritania are the two countries most represented.

Asked by reporter Katie Honan about the demonstration and the conditions at migrant shelters, Mayor Eric Adams repeated his call for more federal support. “We all feel that no one should be in this environment,” he said. “And we need to take all that energy and say to Republicans, say to the federal government: ‘Let’s give New York the support to allow people to work.’”

The Council hearing also highlighted the issue of language accessibility. Many advocates expressed concern that the city’s language line has not been effective and has led to additional challenges. Many migrants are illiterate and require verbal translation, rendering any written translations ineffective. Some of the organizations that spoke Tuesday have staff that speak 16 different languages, yet still experience language translation deficits. Translations in hospitals have been inadequate requiring community staff to attend medical visits. New York City Health + Hospitals has completed over 100,000 visits for individuals seeking asylum, according to a press statement made by Council Member Carlina Rivera. 

Advocates said Black migrants in the city are relying on community support to navigate the immigration process, and that community organizations and individuals have stepped up to provide assistance. Mosques have provided shelter and food to migrants, particularly during Ramadan. However, they said there is a lack of funding and support from the city, and many organizations that spoke reported that they have attempted to access resources but have been unable to find solutions.