NEW YORK — Dozens of Latin American migrants — including children and a pregnant woman — spent five days on buses in order to get to New York City from Texas after Winter Storm Elliott upended their itinerary, volunteers who greeted the wary travelers told the Daily News.
The roughly 50 migrants arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan on Christmas Day after leaving by bus from the Texas border city of El Paso on Dec. 20, said Power Malu, the founder of a group called Artists, Athletes, Activists.
“It was the longest ride that anyone has experienced since the buses started arriving here at Port Authority,” said Malu, who was among a group of volunteers who welcomed the migrants upon their arrival. “Their legs were cramped up, hobbling, feet swollen. ... People were hungry, tired. Really, they were in disarray.”
Malu recalled that an eight-and-a-half month pregnant woman was among the new arrivals. “Luckily, we were able to get her some medical attention,” he said.
As of last Thursday, nearly 33,000 migrants, many from Venezuela, had arrived in New York since this spring after crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in hopes of seeking asylum, according to data from Mayor Adams’ office.
More than 22,400 of the migrants — many of whom are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries — remain in homeless shelters or other forms of city-subsidized housing, the data show.
After crossing into Texas or other border states, it generally takes migrants three days of traveling to arrive in New York. The group that got to the city on Christmas Day were badly delayed because “icy roads“ caused by Winter Storm Elliott held them up and forced them to switch buses three times, Malu said.
Malu said the volunteers greeting migrants at Port Authority didn’t get word on the timing of the group’s arrival until Christmas Eve, forcing them to scramble to get people over to the station by the next morning.
“I hope that (authorities) can learn from this and be better prepared in the future when there’s a storm,” Malu said. “Don’t take the chance of putting buses on the roads when you’re expecting weather like this.”
It was not clear Monday who sent the bus from Texas. The storm has caused dozens of deaths, including 27 in New York State.
An Adams administration official said Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott may be responsible for the buses.The official said that since El Paso’s local government declared a state of emergency on Dec. 17 over the migrant influx into the border city, bus transports to other parts of the country have largely been coordinated by Abbott’s administration.
“That should mean buses coming up are being sent by the state of Texas,” the official said.
Abbott’s office did not return a request for comment Monday.
The Texas governor has faced widespread criticism, including from the White House, for sending migrants from his state to Democrat-led cities without any coordination as political stunts aimed at criticizing President Biden’s border policies.
On Christmas Eve, several busloads of migrants sent by Abbott were dropped off in the freezing cold outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington, D.C., without any advance notice.
Some migrants in New York have been sent by Democratic officials in cities like El Paso, though that’s been done in coordination with Adams’ team, according to his office.
Though Adams and other New York Democrats have pointed fingers at Abbott for much of the city’s migrant crisis, local homeless and immigrant advocates say the mayor shares some blame.
Adama Bah, an activist with TLC NYC, another volunteer organization that greets migrants at Port Authority, said Adams’ administration no longer has any staff at the bus terminal providing migrants with help on how to find shelter beds and other services.
Instead, Bah said that work has been left up to volunteers like her who are not paid.
“The city should be meeting the migrants where they arrive, not just at the Port Authority but at the other bus stops and the airports, and not relying on unpaid volunteers to make sure these exhausted and vulnerable people get to where they need to be,” said Josh Goldfein, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Homeless Rights Project.
The city homeless shelter system population remains at an all-time high amid the migrant influx, and the mayor has repeatedly warned that his administration is on the brink of fiscal catastrophe as a result.
Congress last week allocated $800 million in aid for cities dealing with the migrant crisis, and New York is expected to receive a “substantial share” of that.
But there appears to be no end in sight for the waves of migrants arriving in the city. Already, some 250 migrants get into New York per day, according to Bah and Power.
Adams has said he expects that number to increase if the federal government scraps Title 42, a controversial border policy that has slowed the flow of migrants crossing over the U.S. southern border. The Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Biden administration last week from lifting the policy after it was at first expected to expire Wednesday, but it’s unclear how long the pause will last.