From Texas to New York: Why asylum seekers have been driven thousands of miles across US

More than 90,000 migrants have come to New York City since the spring of 2022. Credit: AP

By Will Tullis, ITV News Washington DC Producer

As dawn breaks over New York, weary yet hopeful new arrivals join the queue outside the city's public library building.

For months, hundreds of asylum seekers have come here to seek help from TLC NYC, a charity that gives out clothes, blankets and other basic provisions to those who need them most.

"I've been [in the queue] since just before 6am," Ana - a doctor from Venezuela - tells us.

"I'm worried if I came any later then I wouldn't get any help... I need it for my daughters," she says.

Solidarity for asylum seekers is not in short supply in this city built on immigration, but resources are running thin.

TLC NYC's director Ilze Thielmann told us that people will queue from as early as 4am - five hours before the charity opens its doors - in the hope of getting the provisions and assistance they need to start and survive life in their new city.

"We try to help as many people as possible, but so many are coming...we have to turn people away," Ilze told us.

"It's heartbreaking."

Asylum seekers from countries including Venezuela are coming to New York, with many being driven thousands of miles from the border with Mexico, as Peter Smith reports.

More than 90,000 migrants have come to New York since the spring of 2022, according to the city's mayor, Eric Adams.

Many of those have arrived on buses from Texas and Arizona, conservative states more than 1,000 miles away, that many asylum seekers cross into from Mexico.

In Texas, the buses are part of Governor Greg Abbott's policy of forcing New York Mayor Eric Adams to - as Abbott sees it - put his money where his mouth is.

"Adams talked the talk about being a sanctuary city, welcoming illegal immigrants into the Big Apple with warm hospitality," Governor Abbott said.

"Talk is cheap. When pressed into fulfilling such ill-considered policies, he wants to condemn anyone who is pressing him to walk the walk," he added.

New York's mayor, Eric Adams, says asylum seekers will cost the city $12 billion (about £9.5 billion). Credit: AP

Back in the queue, we meet one of those who arrived in New York by bus from Texas.

Edinson and his young family came to the US from Venezuela after a perilous journey across land and sea, on foot and even atop the roof of a crowded train. He crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas, with his son on his shoulders.

After he crossed, he was held in an immigration detention centre for hours, before he was put on a bus to New York.

"I was put on the bus and the journey was 36 hours - a day and a half," he told us.

"There are more and more migrants arriving everyday here from all over the world.

"In my hotel there are Venezuelans, Salvadorans, even Chinese and Albanian asylum seekers."

Edinson (pictured) crossed the Rio Bravo into the US with his son on his shoulders. He was then taken by bus from Texas to New York. Credit: ITV News

More than 670,000 asylum seekers have entered the US, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). 

New York is the favoured destination for those who cross into the country. One of the reasons for this is that it is the only city in the United states that has a "right to shelter" law. Under the law, New York City has an obligation to feed and shelter all those who need them.

But the city is now trying to roll back the right to shelter. This week, city officials calculated the increase in asylum seeker arrivals will cost New York $12bn (about £9.5bn).

City officials have even debated controversial new plans for a "tent city" for migrants in Central Park, with capacity for 95,000 people.

Mayor Adams - the self-described "Biden of Brooklyn" - this week revealed he hasn't yet spoken to US president Joe Biden about this. On Thursday, Biden asked Congress to approve $3.9 billion funds for border security, including migrant processing.

Former president Donald Trump - the man who infamously promised to "build a wall" on the border with Mexico - this week used a rally to promise all necessary state, local, federal, and military resources would be used to carrying out "the largest domestic deportation operation in American history", if he is re-elected in 2024.

Migration issues will certainly make plenty of headlines as the US heads into an election year.

As part of that, asylum seekers have been caught in a political crossfire, in a country of immigrants that has an ever-complicated relationship with immigration.

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