Helping asylum seekers in New York – 60 Minutes

Natalia Russo: I think the political nature of this subject makes people turn away from the subject.

Anderson Cooper: How so?

Natalia Russo: There’s been criticism that we’re allowing, you know, criminals, we’re allowing these immigrants who shouldn’t be here. What I see is that they are becoming Americans, right before our eyes. And we will not push them away, ever.

This week on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper reported on the thousands of migrants who have arrived in New York as part of a massive operation led by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to transport migrants released from federal custody along the US-Mexico border to Democratic-led jurisdictions, including New York.

CBS News immigration reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez helped the 60 Minutes team with the story, including translating some of the interviews with the Spanish-speaking migrants and helping them contextualize long-standing systemic issues. faced by the US immigration and asylum systems.

60 Minutes traveled to the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal, where they found that the burden of accommodating these migrants fell to local nonprofits and everyday volunteers. One such volunteer is Power Malu, who heads the Artists-Athletes-Activists group, a non-profit organization that helps asylum seekers by donating food, clothing and other services.

Malu is often the first volunteer migrants see because he gets on the buses before people are unloaded. Malu tells them where they are, why they are in New York, and what kind of services they will be able to access.

Anderson Cooper: Why is it so important to you to get on that bus and greet people before they even get off?

Power Malu: As a New York City representative, I say, “You know what? They come here to New York, it’s my duty as a New Yorker, as a true Yorker, to welcome them with love, to welcome them with dignity and care, and to be the ones to let them know that they are welcome here.” Yes, immigrants are welcome here.

Anderson Cooper: And that makes a difference?

Power Malu: It makes a huge difference. Especially in children, babies coming off the bus.

Due to the influx of migrants from the US-Mexico border, New York’s public school system has had to absorb several thousand migrant children in a very short period of time. Many of these children do not speak English and need education in English, as well as bilingual teachers. City officials estimate that educating these migrants will cost tens of millions of dollars.

Juan Abreu is a parent-student coordinator at one of the city’s public schools, where he helps enroll migrant children in school. He also helped families find hot meals and other necessities, including laundry services.

Juan Abreu: So what they need here, especially here in New York, now that winter is coming, we’re watching, like, the weather drop. So coats, long-sleeved sweaters, hats. They don’t have any of that. And they don’t know it’s fixing to happen. They think it’s their coldest. But they haven’t seen what real winter is — it’s about to come.

Camilo Montoya-Galvez: Is there anything, Juan, that you think the city, state, or federal government can do to help schools like this help these kids?

Juan Abreu: Give us better resources. In the sense of, what’s the game plan for, like, the parents who are already there? Like, they don’t know each other. Will they be able to work? Can they work? Is it possible? Because right now they just sit around and don’t know what to do.

Natalia Russo: It’s a humanitarian crisis. These people do not speak the language, they are not yet part of this culture.

Dr. Natalia Russo is the principal of a public school on the Upper West Side. Russo’s school has welcomed dozens of migrant children from several countries in recent months, including Ukraine, Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

Natalia Russo: When they walk down the street, they hear white noise. At least Americans who are in temporary accommodations, they can navigate. You know, they can go around town. They know where to go. They know how to approach this agency. These people don’t know anything. So it’s our responsibility, frankly, I think, morally, to help them. Because they entrust us with their children. Whether by choice or not, they are there. They arrived. We help them, and all we want is to help them up.

Educators 60 Minutes spoke to said they don’t pay much attention to the political debate over the migrant crisis along the US-Mexico border. Instead, they said they were only responding to the immediate needs of a vulnerable population that has arrived in their town. They told 60 Minutes that if they don’t do this job, no one else will.

Natalie Russo: I really don’t think there’s anybody, you know, south of the border who’s thinking, ‘Oh, let’s do this trip because if we do, we can get to PS 145, and they will help us.” You know, I don’t think that’s it.

Anderson Cooper: But in terms of the vision, “My child can have a better life, my child can go to a good school, he can have more opportunities”?

Natalia Russo: Alright. I mean, I think it’s the drive. This is what makes these families assume the danger they put their family in. Do I think that encourages him? It’s not a question I’m thinking about. Because I can only think about when they’re here, when they’re under my care, when they’re sitting in my classroom, when they’re sitting in the cafeteria: I need to know they’re safe.

The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and Will Croxton. It was edited by Will Croxton.

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