Local advocates face issues helping migrants arriving in Capital Region

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Migrants looking for a better life are making their way to the Capital Region. Non-profits say while their hearts are open, their hands are full and they need help.

NewsChannel 13 first showed Thursday that some of the migrants being brought to New York City from the border are given tickets to Albany if they have a connection or family member willing to take them in.

NewsChannel 13 spoke to the man we’re calling John, released from the hospital Friday afternoon, now faced with a grave diagnosis after a long journey from Venezuela.  

John told NewsChannel 13 he is feeling better, but he was in a lot of pain before.

Doctors here have diagnosed John with cancer and Hepatitis C. He told us, he was healthy when he began his journey here.

He described walking through eight countries before arriving at the border. His feet reflect the long and painful journey. He traveled for 25 days, saying the forest and its treacherous terrain was the biggest challenge.

He longs for his two children at home in Venezuela. The faster he gets better and gets a job, the faster he can send money home to his family, he explained.

It won’t be easy—he arrived at Capital District Latinos like a number of other migrants, with nothing but the clothes on his back. Now he’s navigating a country where he doesn’t speak the language and has no support system. Despite his hardship, he’s thankful for the help Capital District Latinos has given him to get back on his feet, he told NewsChannel 13.

But for Micky Jimenez at Capital District Latinos, getting help with the flow of migrants to her nonprofit is an uphill battle. NewsChannel 13 watched as she tried tirelessly to get help for John in navigating his diagnosis.

“We have to set something up better than being on Zooms and having more calls and people saying, we can recommend to do such. Either we come to the table and we build a model that’s going to work, so we can help support these people and treat them with the dignity that they deserve,” said Jimenez.

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Daniel Butterworth, Executive Director of RISSE, Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, says nonprofits need to work together—but it can’t be all on them.

“I think city and county government could do more to help with coordination. That being said, it’s also on us as the support agencies to work on that coordination ourselves too,” he said, saying RISSE was planning to immediately offer its support to Capital District Latinos in helping the migrants.

Albany is a sanctuary city, which protects migrants from arrest and prosecution because of immigration status. But that is only part of what comes with the designation, says Butterworth.

“I think there is a role for community members generally to assist. One of the things we regularly find a need for, especially as we’ve seen resettlement numbers increase in the last year, is affordable housing or assistance with food, immigration sponsorship,” he said.

Butterworth says Albany has been generous with COVID rescue plan funding. But the city says there is no more money to be given out. So it may be a matter of organizations like RISSE banding together to help the new arrivals.

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