New York City officials said intake centers are already overwhelmed with more than 4,000 people since a surge that began in May.
Three buses with approximately 100 migrants from Texas arrived in New York City early Wednesday morning, city officials said. The migrants who arrived Wednesday were from Venezuela and Colombia, said Shaina Coronel, a spokesperson for Manuel Castro, the Commissioner for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
The migrants were a mix of families and single men, according to Michael Whitesides, spokesman for council member Shahana Hanif. They arrived between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. to loud applause from volunteers, including Hanif, Coronel said.
“Mutual aid groups were giving our care packages with food and to-go bags while NYIC and Immigrant Arc assisted with legal services,” Whitesides said.
The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs said that about eight migrants coming off the bus needed emergency medical attention for various health-related issues.
And while the city plans on opening a more specialized services-based help center within the next two weeks, along with more emergency housing, officials struggle with a lack of coordination from the state of Texas, Castro said.
“They’ve essentially weaponized this situation,” Castro said during at a city council hearing on Tuesday. “We’ve learned that the bus company that they’ve been working with has a non-disclosure agreement that does not allow them to communicate with the city of New York.”
Mayor Eric Adams accused Abbott of forcing the migrants onto buses, an accusation denied by the governor’s office on Monday.
“It’s unimaginable. Come to a country and your first visit here, someone is throwing you out, as the Governor of Texas is doing, then trying to navigate this complex country to deliver your services,” Adams said at an unrelated press event on Tuesday.
Abbott’s office echoed earlier comments on Wednesday by reiterating that the migrants being bused to New York City are going willingly and have signed a waiver consenting to their destination.
“These migrants willingly chose to go to New York City, having signed a voluntary consent waiver, available in multiple languages, upon boarding that they agreed on the destination. If the mayor wants a solution to this crisis, he should call on President Biden to take immediate action to secure the border — something the President continues failing to do,” Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary, said in a statement.
A copy of the waiver obtained by CNN lists Washington, D.C., and New York City as “available destinations.” It also includes a line that absolves Texas and its officials from liability “arising out of or in any way relating to any injuries and damages that may occur during the agreed transport to locations outside of Texas.”
Abbott’s office did not answer questions concerning non-disclosure agreements for bus companies.
One migrant who arrived Wednesday, who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity, said he has family in New York City and voluntarily got on the bus. He had previously traveled a month from Venezuela to the border to seek asylum in what he described as an arduous journey, and he was happy to finally be meeting with family in New York.
He described a three-day journey to New York as a comfortable trip, adding that food and water were provided. The man claimed some people on the bus did want to come to New York on their own volition and made arrangements to meet relatives.
Other individuals that arrived Wednesday were seeking final destination in Chicago, Miami, Maryland, North Carolina, along with the New York city of Rochester and the village of Westbury, said Coronel.
City officials say migrants need housing, legal and medical assistance
At Tuesday’s hearing, city officials detailed the challenge in providing services, such as housing, legal help and even medical assistance.
“As the buses arrive, people arrive hungry, thirsty and often sick,” Castro said. “And those are the immediate needs. Asylum seekers have many particular needs.”
New York City Commissioner of the Department of Social Services Gary Jenkins told the hearing on “Long-standing NYC Shelter Intake Issues and the Recent Increase in Asylum Seekers” that the migrants have been placed in 11 emergency sites — four in Manhattan, three in Queens, two in Brooklyn and two in the Bronx, he said.
The city is expected to open one specialized service center within the next two weeks, said New York City Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol. That center will primarily provide legal services and enrollment in public schools for children who have arrived, among others. They then plan to refer people to community-based organizations as a way to matriculate migrants into different communities, Iscol said.
Adams, for his part, said he is asking for more state and federal help and expects to speak with the Biden administration before the end of the week. He also highlighted the conditions most of the migrants from Texas had to endure, with a 45-hour bus ride and limited stops, even though, he says, some wanted to go to a different state.
“There is nothing successful about treating people with this lack of dignity,” the mayor said.
CNN’s Isa Kaufman-Geballe contributed to this report.