A visit to a legal clinic for migrants in Long Island City sparked emotion on Saturday, when Mayor Eric Adams and Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Manuel Castro met with local organizers working to help asylum-seekers navigate a complex immigration system — and apply for affordable housing.
With a flood of immigrants pouring into the city in recent months, many of the Big Apple’s newest residents require legal aid. With that in mind, several New York City organizations have set up locations to offer assistance, such as the non-profits AID FOR Life and Fundavenyc, and operates out of 49-27 31st St. in Queens.
According to the Fundavenyc’s director, Leonardo Uzcategui, their main mission is affordable housing, which also ties into the city’s migrant crisis.
“Our main mission is providing affordable housing programs to the community. This program allows any individual no matter their immigration status or their type of income to pay affordable rent no more than 30% of their monthly income,” Uzcategui explained. “The mayor announced in December a huge plan for constructing more than 500,000 [units of] affordable housing in the next decade, so this is something that can allow asylum-seekers that are in a shelter to apply.”
On Feb. 25, Mayor Adams and Commissioner Castro went to see — and commend — Fundavenyc’s services firsthand. During their visit, they were taken on a tour of the facility, through which they saw how those in need are assisted with any legal paperwork they may have, and are placed into housing assistance programs, especially vital for those with children.
Adams and Castro also stopped by the building’s small auditorium to greet some of the city’s newest residents.
Speaking directly to the migrants, hizzoner expressed the importance of the type of work groups like Fundavenyc do. He also reminded audience members that Castro — who crossed the U.S. border with his mother as a child before growing up in Brooklyn — was himself a Dreamer. The commissioner fled Mexico with his family, and now aims to help others who are in the place he once was.
“My commissioner, who came from Mexico with his family as a Dreamer, now he’s in charge of making sure you get your services,” Adams said, accompanied by translation from Castro. “So, the person who once sat in your chairs is now in charge of making sure you are able to reach your dream.”
The mayor told migrants that one day, like Castro, they’ll be the ones giving back.
“You are going to come back one day and you’re going to help someone that is sitting in the chair that day,” he said.
The mayor’s words appeared to have an effect on many in attendance. One couple could be seen bursting into tears during his speech, and afterward, one woman clutched to the mayor in thanks. The two embraced as she wept.
Speaking to amNewYork Metro directly, Adams said the emotional visit had a profound effect on him as well.
“I think all of us know a moment of being overwhelmed with emotions,” Adams said, recalling the struggles his own mother endured. “I identify with what she felt to think you would never get there. She probably went through months, traveling through horrendous conditions, and finally, just to sit inside a room and have the person that’s in charge of the city saying we will help you, that’s impactful.”
The mayor said many of the city’s migrants are feeling the same way.
“I understood the emotions,” he said, “and I know [they’re] the same emotions that so many of us are feeling right now.”
As local leaders continue to work to address the influx of asylum-seekers, Uzcategui told amNewYork Metro he hopes the federal government will step in to provide financial assistance for major migrant cities like New York.
“Definitely we need help from the federal government. I’m aware that the state and the city has done the best they can, but it’s not enough funds. I mean, we need to have funds, we need to work together,” Uzcategui said.