Work underway to help migrants that end up in Albany

The city of Albany and outreach organizations are doing what they can to help migrants heading into the city.

The first thing that needs to be done for migrants is to get them the basics: food and water.

That is where Capital District Latinos has been instrumental; in gathering donations and distributing them at their central avenue pantry. However, there is so much more to be done.

RISSE, the Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, is another critical social service agency ready to meet the need. Specifically, they help with family support services and education.

The volunteers at RISSE do not ask their visitors about immigration status.

Nevertheless, Executive Director Daniel Butterworth said they are likely helping recent undocumented arrivals who were put on buses in New York City to head here.

“It’s very possible. We have case managers on staff, and we have quite a busy couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ve reached out to our partner agencies to offer English language assistance, donation drives for any personal care or clothing needs that individuals might have, and trying to link up with legal services, as well.”

There’s one major roadblock that RISSE, other outreach organizations, and even the city of Albany are facing to help migrants further. Mayor Kathy Sheehan summed it up in one word: communication.

“Simply putting people on a bus, not telling a community that they are coming is no way to respond,” she said.

That is why Albany is making a plan for migrants, but it’s not easy when no one in our region is getting a heads-up about how many people are coming and when.

Sheehan said she has spoken with several community-based organizations, as well as Albany County, to coordinate efforts to meet the needs of new arrivals. That includes providing legal services, English classes, and getting migrants in contact with social service agencies.

Everyone seems to agree: a little advanced notice could go a long way.

“It’s knowing that people are coming that’s important,” Mayor Sheehan said. “I realize for people along the border, they don’t always know. That’s why we need to have a response, and we need to understand what those challenges are.”

“We all just want to be ready to help and make sure basic human needs are met,” Butterworth said.
There is a lot more that goes into helping these migrants get on their feet.

They need to be able to build, and sustain, a decent life. That is where state leaders are stepping in. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the launch of New York State’s Institute for Immigrant Integration Research & Policy. The goal is to help immigrants transition to community life, further education, and the workforce.

“That’s how we bring it together, that’s how we land this month, and talk about bringing people together personally, but also opening our arms wide – because we are so proud to be the state that has the Statue of Liberty in our harbor.”