Local electeds, community orgs step up to help asylum seekers

Councilmember Shahana Hanif, Chair of the Immigrant Committee is just one of several Brooklyn leaders working to provide aid for asylum seekers.
Councilmember Shahana Hanif, Chair of the Immigrant Committee is just one of several Brooklyn leaders working to provide aid for asylum seekers.
Caroline Ourso

Brooklynites from around the borough are rushing to the aid of asylum seekers arriving in New York City, as the ongoing influx of refugees continues to develop.

Mayor Eric Adams has declared a state of emergency in response to the situation, which has seen over 17,000 migrants arrive in the Big Apple, and has been pleading with the state and federal governments to aid the city in their efforts to provide basic necessities to the migrants. 

“New York City is doing all we can, but we are reaching the outer limit of our ability to help,” Adams said.

Many migrant refugees are arriving as a result of southern elected officials who have taken to bussing thousands of asylum seekers to the Big Apple, often without coordinating with officials from the migrants’ ultimate destination.  

But while Adams seeks out support from the administrations of Gov. Kathy Hochul and President Joe Biden, local elected officials, mutual aid organizations and everyday citizens have stepped up to provide some additional relief in areas where the government has lacked.

At P.S. 9 Sarah Smith Garnet School in Prospect Heights, where many migrants attend classes, and lack proper aid, parents and teachers organized to provide assistance.

“The P.S. 9 community organized from the moment the asylum families arrived, focusing on two main things: integrating them into the community and ensuring that they were fed, dressed, and informed,” a group of P.S. 9 parents who asked not to be identified told Brooklyn Paper. 

“In partnership with the administration and the [parent teacher organization], the Spanish committee took the lead in organizing committees to serve their various needs.”

The group coordinated a food train to provide daily warm meals to all P.S. 9 migrant families in need from September to December, as well as multiple clothing and toy drives and seminars to help migrant families navigate social-services and many more supportive programs.   

To aid the non-English speaking migrants, the school also created a “buddy” system, where bilingual families would aid with translations. 

But while the school community has made progress in aiding the migrants, they know there are still significant gaps to be filled. 

“Many, if not all, of these families, can not work legally — so getting money to supplement any limited aid the city [and or] state is providing is near impossible,” said the P.S. 9 parent group. 

“Almost all of the families we have from shelters have no access to a kitchen — all of their food must be already cooked or shelf stable. At one of the shelters, there are 75 families with access to only one shared microwave.”

Migrant families in Brooklyn have also been leaning on local leaders, many of whom have collaborated with government agencies and community mutual aid organizations to help support asylum seekers.

“When we learned there were two emergency shelters opening in our district, our office immediately sprung into action,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, who represents Park Slope and the surrounding areas. “We are engaged with government partners in [the Department of Homeless Services] and [Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs] to get an accurate headcount and understanding of the facilities and services.”

The local pol began seeking out ways to aid organizations in their efforts to help support the newly arrived immigrants. 

“We are coordinating with on-the-ground organizations like the Gowanus Mutual Aid, CHiPS, and Mixteca, who we knew are serving asylum seekers in our district, to see what they needed, what they were hearing, and how we could support them,” Hanif said.

Other city leaders like Council Member Crystal Hudson, who represents Crown Heights, have also helped to provide service directly to migrant families, and also assist community members who are looking to help asylum seekers.

“She and her team have been a great resource in expanding our efforts to the overall District 13 community as well as assisting in the red tape that many of these families are experiencing,” the P.S. 9 parent group said. “New Yorkers can and should reach out to their local representatives to inquire about any aid that they are providing to these families and express their concern for the needs of their communities.”

Council Member Hanif, who also serves as the Chair of the Immigration Committee in the Council, stressed the importance of collaboration between city government and local groups to work to provide the most care for asylum seekers.

“While we’re doing work on the ground, it’s important to remember this is a citywide situation that requires a citywide response,” said Council Member Hanif. “ I can’t stress enough how important it is that every level of government works together to ensure the needs of asylum seekers are met.”

For more coverage of the asylum seekers, head to BrooklynPaper.com.\

Last updated Feb. 6, 2023 2:33 p.m.