The first 3,500 miles of Jose Rodríguez’s journey from Venezuela to New York took nearly two months.
The final 2,000 took less than two days, aboard a bus chartered by the state of Texas.
Mr Rodríguez was one of about 50 migrants who arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Times Square early Friday amid a raging political battle over immigration.
Since April, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has been sending newly arrived asylum seekers to immigrant-friendly Democratic East Coast towns to try and pressure the Biden administration to work hard on the border. Abbott’s news agency said the bus that arrived in Manhattan on Friday, leaving Eagle Pass that Wednesday afternoon, “contained the first group of migrants transported by bus from Texas to New York City.”
Mr. Abbott and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have been sparring about immigrants on social media and in the press for weeks. The bus was delivered two days after Mr. Adams had announced emergency measures to allow New York City to quickly add shelter capacity.
New York officials have said about 4,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the city in recent months. Most of the buses from Texas—and from Arizona, whose governor has followed Mr. Abbott’s lead—have gone to Washington.
Like Washington, New York is “the ideal destination for these migrants, who can receive the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has bragged about in the sanctuary city,” Abbott said in a statement Friday. “I hope he keeps his promise to welcome all migrants with open arms so that our flooded and overwhelmed border towns can find relief.”
Mr Adams and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser both say their cities have been overrun by an influx of asylum seekers, with homeless shelter systems at capacity. They have pleaded with the federal government for help finding and creating housing for migrants.
The population of New York City’s main homeless shelter had grown to just over 50,000 on Tuesday, from 46,000 at the end of May. It was unclear to what extent the pressure on the system could be attributed to asylum seekers.
The number of people in the city’s family shelters, where almost all of the recent increase has taken place, tends to rise in the summer, and while there has been a recent increase at the Mexican border, refugees from Latin America are making their way to New York in large numbers all year round.
The city’s Department of Homeless Services declined to provide figures on how many of those who recently arrived at shelters had come from outside New York or whether the proportion had changed.
Last month, after the city violated the right to shelter law by not providing rooms for some people who had come to the Bronx family shelter, Mr. Adams blamed asylum seekers sent from Texas and Arizona.
Homeless advocates say there are many reasons why the city’s shelter system has become overburdened, some of which are wholly or partially within the city’s control. Those factors include a lack of affordable housing, an increase in evictions and longer wait times to move out of shelters and apartments.
While some of the migrants who arrived on the chartered bus from Texas on Friday went to the shelter system, Mr. Rodríguez and a friend who traveled with him, Pablo Gutiérrez, knew someone in New York who could give them a place to stay. “We have a friend coming to meet us here,” said Mr Gutiérrez.
Rodríguez, 38, an unemployed mason from Maracaibo, on Venezuela’s northwest coast, said he left home on June 10 with $100 in his pocket.
“I had no money to eat,” he said in a broken voice, waiting for his host in Midtown later Friday morning. “The situation is very desperate in Venezuela.”
Like other migrants, Mr. Rodríguez and Mr. Gutiérrez said they had agreed to go to New York because it was free. “We’ve heard there’s a lot of work in New York,” says 30-year-old Gutiérrez, who worked as a cook at home.
The Adams government denounced the bus trip as another Mr Abbott stunt. The “continued use of people as political pawns by the Texas governor is disgusting,” said Fabien Levy, a spokesman for Mr. Adams. wrote on Twitter. The city, Levy added, would continue to “welcome asylum seekers” but needed federal support to do so.
Catholic charities of the Archdiocese of New York, which provides aid and services to newly arrived immigrants, said Friday it had helped more than 1,000 people who appeared to have come to New York directly from the southern border or after a short detour in recent weeks. Washington. Asylum seekers crossing the southern border regularly travel on buses from Texas to New York City, although they usually stop in San Antonio or other southern cities first, rather than go straight through.
Mr Abbott’s press office did not immediately respond to a question about whether Texas planned to send more buses carrying migrants to New York.
Regardless, the flow of migrants continues to pour in. Friday afternoon, an extended family from Venezuela — six adults and four children — arrived at the Bronx family shelter. They said they had gone to a shelter in San Antonio, where a religious group had bought them tickets to Newark. From there they traveled to New York because they heard they could find work in the city.
“Even if there were other places,” said Kelvin Ortega, 27, “we always knew we wanted to come here.”