(FILE) File photograph dated January 30, 2023 that shows Venezuelan immigrants while they board a transport after being evicted from a hotel, in New York (USA). EFE/Ángel Colmenares

New York offers free flights to immigrants who want to leave the city

Javier Otazu

New York, Oct 27 (EFE). – The mayor’s office of New York is offering free plane tickets to other cities in the United States to immigrants who want to leave voluntarily, in an almost desperate attempt to decongest the city.

The city’s offer comes in the face of an incessant flow that has brought 133,400 people to the Big Apple since the spring of 2022, according to official figures.

“We have opened more than 210 shelters in response to the crisis, and we have simply run out of space. Since there is no sign of a decrease in the immediate future, we have created a relocation center,” a spokesman for the New York mayor’s office told EFE.

“The city will redouble its efforts to buy tickets for immigrants and help them take the next step in their journey,” they added.

The “screening center” is located in the Roosevelt Hotel, a historic hotel that was converted into an immigration operations center months ago.

Although the press is prohibited from entering, it is easy to talk to the dozens of immigrants who crowd the entrance in search of information.

Héctor P., a Colombian, has been offered a one-way ticket to Denver, but he protests: “What have I got in Denver? I don’t know anyone there,” so he refuses for the time being, but hasn’t given up on the idea, because “here in New York, there are many of us for few jobs.”

At his side, José Luis S., an Ecuadorian, recounts a similar experience: in his case, he was offered tickets “to Denver, Chicago and Florida,” but he also rejected them because when he asked if the ticket was accompanied by a job offer, he received a refusal.

At the Roosevelt gate, everyone knows a friend or relative who has been offered a flight, and only those who have relatives in other cities are considering the idea.

The free flights comes on the heels of another offer of free bus rides in February, when New York received 45,000 immigrants.

The mayor’s office offered rides to various cities, and in some cases to Canada, creating a political problem in the neighboring country due to its lax reception rules.

Increasingly difficult for single migrants

Héctor and José Luis have just been evicted from a Long Island City shelter under a new city policy that limits stays to sixty days to make room for other new arrivals.

Although the mayor’s office did not specify, it is clear that they are giving priority to families with children in their care, and it is common to see groups of children leaving hotels and shelters in the morning to go to schools, where Hispanics usually have the support of bilingual teachers who help them in their English immersion courses.

But the authorities are much harsher on single immigrants, whom they have begun to evict from their shelters, according to several testimonies.

In recent days, a rumor has circulated that the mayor’s office is considering the option of using tents as an alternative to accommodate new immigrants once the roofs are exhausted, an idea that has angered immigrant advocacy groups because it comes just as winter is setting in and travelers continue to arrive despite everything.

Although the mayor’s office has not confirmed what criteria it will use to send people to a tent or what type of tents they will use – individual or large collective tents – it has not denied the news: “All options are on the table,” they said in a message sent to EFE. EFE