New York City’s band aid approach to the surging immigrant situation


As New York continues it’s band aid approach to the surging immigrant situation, I must think about this famous quote about insanity, often attributed to Albert Einstein. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

New York City, i.e. the Mayor and his policy analysts, must all be insane. They keep building tent city’s and trying to make them work. One of the first was built adjacent to the parking lot on Orchard Beach in the Bronx, then on Randell’s Island in East Harlem, and finally to a massive one on Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

Each of these tent city’s failed for specific reasons, for example:
The Orchard Beach site was shut down because of flooding. The engineers did not take rain into consideration. Millions of dollars wasted.
The Randell’s Island site was shut down because of transportation on and off the island for immigrants to get to court, go out to appointments or to seek work. (although it has since been reopened with transportation provisions)
Finally we get to the Floyd Bennett Field site. Despite the New City Fire Department’s objections over emergency and water concerns, despite the Legal Aides objections because of cramped quarters, and despite the local community’s concerns about over crowded schools, the city went ahead and opened this facility anyway. Then many of the immigrants themselves objected. Many were relocated from shelters/hotels in the Bronx or from Manhattan this would have disrupted the schooling for the children. How would a child attend school in the Bronx if she/he now lives in a tent city in Brooklyn?

My name is Gil Cintrón. I am a licensed Social worker and the Executive Director of Helping Immigrants Thrive, Inc. I have talking for one year now about an alternative that could help remedy many of the situations confronting both the City, and the immigrants. The concept is not a unique one but it is uniquely modified to work with the current immigrant situation. In fact it is an old concept that was developed in the late eighteen hundreds by a social reformer named Charles Loring Brace, founder of the Children’s Aid Society. In working with the neglected, abandoned and often misguided children of immigrants in the Five Points section of New York City, Loring Brace thought that what these children needed was a) loving home environment, 2) education, 3) work. This concept of placing out (placing these children in homes out in the Midwest) eventually morphed in what today we call foster care. When Mr. Brace first presented this concept it was met with pretty much the same opposition I have been facing. That it would not work. The first to object to it were the politicians and the philanthropist. Of course once the citizen’s embraced it then both the politicians, and the philanthropist jumped on board. Today, 133 years later, it is a functioning system for the care of neglected children.

My concept would use many of the same concepts of the foster care model, but modified to work with the immigrant population. I met with and gave The NYC Office of Asylum Seeker Operations (OASO) an outline of this concept and how it would work. I was told they liked they idea but I have yet to be contacted about it. Instead, the Floyd Bennett Field site was opened against many objections.

The first thought that jumps into the mind of many people when I mention this concept is “who in their right mind would want to take an immigrant into their home? I know I wouldn’t”, they’d say. While it may be true that many people would not want to host an immigrant, there are some that actually wouldn’t mind. The city is spending approximately twelve thousand ($12,000.00) dollars’ a month per immigrant. I told them that our agency could do it for nine to ten thousand dollars per month. And that this would include casework services, education and employment services, home visits and support for the “host”, and all of the other ancillary services required.

We are still waiting any response from the City.

Please, anyone that may want to host an immigrant, or would like more information please fill out our survey.  (We may be able to help offset expenses with up to $3500.00/month)

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