Rockland County and nonprofits say they lack resources for asylum seekers

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Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Rockland County, nonprofits say they lack resources for asylum seekers
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Rockland County executives said they don't have the resources to help and they're using police to stop the buses of migrants and turn them around.

ROCKLAND COUNTY, New York (WABC) -- With New York City already at capacity Mayor Eric Adams has taken to busing asylum seekers north to suburban counties, but Rockland County says they lack the necessary resources.

County executives said they simply do not have the resources to help and they're using police to stop the buses of migrants.

Sheriff's deputies were ready to stop buses from relocating asylum seekers to a hotel in Rockland County Tuesday afternoon.

"We don't have the permanent housing," Social Services Commissioner Joan Silvestri said. "We don't have that type of support that will need to exist within the community."

Silvestri said Rockland is already dealing with a surge of its typical migration pattern of asylum seekers connecting with family members while pursuing job opportunities.

Nonprofit groups said they've reached their limit.

Catholic Charities runs one of nearly 50 food pantries in the county and even grows its own produce to distribute to the needy.

"When I started we probably had 200 to 210 households come to the food pantry in a month," said Daniel Eudine of Catholic Charities. "In April we had 476."

Officials said the effects of the influx of migrants are serious. In March, five people including two children died in a fire in an overcrowded apartment in Spring Valley.

Meanwhile, schools are also feeling the squeeze.

East Ramapo is already dealing with an extra thousand students in its school district. but it's not just kids and teens straining educational resources. Even the county's adult education program is at capacity.

"We get phone calls every single day of people who are looking for English language services and GED services and we just don't have the ability to serve every single person who needs it," said Stephanie Compasso with Rockland Boces.

Rockland Boces runs literacy and vocational classes days, nights and weekends. Because the program is state-funded, money is not the main issue, it's finding enough teachers to meet the demand.

Meantime other providers said migrants are being hurt by the lack of federal policies that would provide food benefits and work permits.

"They work off the books," Silvestri said. "They have no workers comp, they have no benefits. They live under the radar. They do it in fear and that's not right."

And there's no clear solution in sight.

RELATED | NYC eyeing up to 20 schools with standalone gyms for migrant housing: Mayor Adams


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