American Civic Association wants to help Broome County support asylum seekers
Broome County was one of several upstate counties to declare a state of emergency last week, preemptively pushing back against plans to bus asylum seekers from New York City.
The county banned local hotels and motels from sheltering migrants, arguing that there are limited local resources to support an influx of people.
The American Civic Association (ACA) in Binghamton works with new immigrants to file legal paperwork, such as work authorizations or asylum applications. The nonprofit also helps people find health insurance, housing, and jobs.
“We're the boots on the ground,” said Hussein Adams, executive director of the ACA. “We're the ones who are servicing all of these different nationals from numerous countries on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.”
Adams said since the summer, they’ve helped hundreds, if not a thousand, refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan. He was surprised to learn that so many upstate counties are refusing to take in migrant asylum seekers.
“This is who we say we are as Americans, you know, and we should not have special treatment for one and not the other,” Adams said.
Adams pointed out that the migrants have ongoing asylum cases and have been vetted meticulously by the federal government long before reaching New York.
The main difference between asylum seekers and refugees is where they’re applying from; refugees apply from their country of origin, and asylum seekers apply from within the U.S.
Adams said the ACA has a good relationship with Broome County, and they would have liked to help the county support the asylum seekers. He said he understands how difficult it is to provide services for an influx of people, but he has mixed feelings about the recent emergency declaration.
“There’s no secret that there's a housing crisis. There’s no secret that it's tough to find housing for anyone,” Adams said. “However, I think we need to work together on all levels, local, national, to make it happen, to make it work.”
Adams argues that instead of treating immigrants as a burden, elected officials and the larger community should consider some of the positive impacts that can come from new arrivals.