Immigrants And Refugees
Immigrants and Refugees

On the Frontlines of New York’s Migrant Crisis: Alissa Tyghter-Gerald

Alissa Tyghter-Gerald, Photo Credit: Catholic Charities New York

Who sent them remains shrouded in mystery. Some say the governors of Texas and Arizona. Others point to U.S. Immigration, or maybe it’s a combination. All Alissa Tyghter-Gerald, Division Director of Community and Outreach Services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, knows is that they keep coming.

From July 18 through July 29, Catholic Charities has served 513 households, with 255 children, for a total of 768 people. As of August 1st, that number is now closer to 1,000 people. Of the 2,800 people the New York Mayor’s Office estimates arrived in New York, most are Venezuelans. Many asylum seekers are dropped off after coming from Texas and Arizona via bus, with a detour through Washington D.C.

“They were under the impression that they would just get a room here,” says Alissa. But many were sent to Catholic Charities’ office headquarters at 1011 First Avenue in Manhattan, at 55th Street. It’s been up to Catholic Charities’ caseworkers to find them shelter and basic necessities. As the calendar moved into August, the numbers appear to be growing, judging by the crowded lobby at 1011 First Ave. most mornings.

Those who have landed at 1011 are given gift bags, totaling more than 700 over the past two weeks. They are interviewed by caseworkers, who help in arranging them placement in city shelters and directing them to local food pantries. They have also been counseled to meet asylum court dates. The children have been give stuffed animals and coloring books.

“They have nowhere to turn to for food,” notes Alissa. “This is a long-term problem.” She says it will be even more acute as the summer turns into the cooler autumn nights, as clothing remains an issue as well. She doesn’t see the situation resolving quickly, as long as the buses keep coming.

The caseworkers at Catholic Charities will continue their work regardless. “But it will be great to have a heads up on how many people are coming,” she says.