How can New York solve the migrant crisis in our city?

Christa Avampato
3 min readJan 23, 2024
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

New York has a triple crisis: the migrant crisis, the homelessness crisis, and the city government staffing crisis. Within all this difficulty, we may also have a partial solution. How might we help migrants in New York City and New Yorkers who are homeless fill the massive number of vacant jobs in New York City’s government agencies?

New York City’s migrant crisis
Over the last year more than 100,000 migrants (over one-quarter of them children) have arrived in New York, most of them bussed here by the Texas Governor, and with no support from the federal government even though a state of emergency was declared in Fall 2023.

They arrive at Port Authority bus terminal, many in the middle of the night, without proper clothing, no food, no water, and no idea what they will do once they arrive. This past week during the city’s frigid temperatures and snowfall, some slept on the street, in the snow, under cardboard boxes. It is a tragedy that is estimated to cost between $10 — $12 billion over the next three years.

New York City’s homelessness crisis
The migrant crisis is doubling New York City’s existing homelessness crisis, which has been horrific for many years. New York City has over 100,000 people who are homeless. One-third of them are children. 4,000 New Yorkers who are homeless shelter in the city’s subway system. Many of them need medical support for mental health and addiction issues. It’s also true that many of them have fallen on hard times and need help to get back up on their feet.

New York City’s government staffing crisis
New York City is the country’s largest municipal employer and facing a persistent labor shortage — a total of 23,000 vacancies (8% of roles) across all of our city’s agencies. This problem has persisted for more than a year.

We have people who need and want jobs. We have jobs that need to be filled. Yes, many will need training and re-skilling. No, this is not the one solution that will completely solve these challenges. However, given the dire state we’re in, isn’t it worth putting all options on the table for consideration?

I know people will say many of the people who are migrants and who are homeless do not have proper work authorization. It would be against the law to allow them to work. Now consider this: they are entering the workforce anyway into the underground economy where they are often exploited and where they do not pay taxes that could be used to help support them and grow the tax base. If the federal government won’t expedite work authorization, and they won’t help us manage this crisis, then we will have to help ourselves by any creative ways necessary.

If the federal government isn’t going to assist our city, and the Texas governor’s actions are going to continue to go unchecked, then it is up to us to take care of our city and the people who are here. Our city needs workers. We have people who want jobs. Our tax base needs support. To quote the late great Congressman John Lewis, we will have to make a way out of no way.

I know this is not a simple challenge, a simple solution, nor a simple process. But we cannot sit on the sidelines while these issues worsen every day. No one outside of New York is going to help us. We need to help ourselves and help each other. It’s what New Yorkers have done for many years, especially in the face of disaster. It’s what we need to do now.

--

--

Christa Avampato

Award-winning author & writer—Product Dev — Biomimicry scientist — Podcaster. Runs on curiosity & joy. twitter.com/christanyc / instagram.com/christarosenyc