Tiny upstate New York town faced with NYC-like migrant influx
JAMESTOWN, NY — In this small town — about as far as you can get from the southern border without entering Canada — residents are bracing for an influx of immigrants that could cause a crisis similar to the one New York City is facing. fiscal cliff. .
“If a city of 8 million people can be overrun by a few thousand immigrants, imagine what a few hundred can do to overwhelm a small rural community on the front lines?” warned state Sen. Joe Borrello (R-Jamestown).
“It wouldn’t take many immigrants to beat the system,” he added.
At least 35 migrants from Colombia are known to have arrived in the small upstate city since late last year, with others believed to be living in the shadows and possibly on the streets, a top lawyer said. Hispanic for The Post.
Locals learned of the new arrivals after a volunteer with the Chautauqua County Hispanic Community Council overheard one speaking with a Colombian accent inside a Tops supermarket last month, council president Max Martin said.
Jamestown is 285 miles from New York City, which is overrun by immigrants. At least 35 migrants from Colombia are known to have arrived in the small town in the north of the state since late last year. Dan Cappellazzo for the NY Post
The city’s population is 28,393, with 10.6% Hispanic, according to the US Census. Dan Cappellazzo for the NY Post Most immigrants traveled to Jamestown on their own after learning about the town from other border crossers in El Paso, Texas. Dan Cappellazzo for the NY Post
The city’s population is 28,393, with 10.6% Hispanic, according to the US Census. Until the immigrants came, the Hispanic community was almost exclusively Puerto Rican, Martin said.
“Colombians are already here and more are coming. What is the government going to do about it?” Martin asked. “They need housing and transportation or be allowed to work and get a driver’s license.”
But without help, Martin warned, “they will have to work illegally to survive.”
“Many of them have already been offered fake Social Security numbers and cards. I worry that they might be forced back into crime like drug dealing,” he said.
Most of the immigrants traveled to Jamestown on their own after learning about the town from other border crossers in El Paso, Texas, some told The Post in Spanish, translated by Martin.
“I was in detention for two months,” said a migrant named Paola. “When I was in custody, I met a Colombian who told me to come to Jamestown.”
Paola, 29, is sharing a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house with 10 other migrants, including two young children and two teenagers.
The housemates include a married couple, Mayerly and David, both 23, who work with Paola at a local grocery store they spoke to The Post.
Carlos shares a three-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with 12 others in Jamestown.Dan Cappellazzo for the NY Post
Mayerly said their house is so crowded that, “I have to make an appointment to use the bathroom.”
“The kids go first thing in the morning so they can go to school,” she said.
Her husband said they ended up living about 70 miles south of Buffalo because, “At the border, we had to give them an address of someone who would wait for us.”
“A friend told us about Jamestown,” David said. “We spent the last of our money on a flight from El Paso to Buffalo.”
A 30-year-old woman named Brenda — whose sister is one of the first immigrants to arrive in Jamestown — said she and her two children followed her brother there and arrived in November.
Brenda and her children share a dilapidated house with another immigrant named Ricaurte.Dan Cappellazzo for the NY Post
“More Colombians are coming to Jamestown,” Brenda said in Spanish. “A family came two weeks ago. I know another family with kids coming from Texas now.”
Brenda, who was a nurse in Ibagué, about 50 miles west of the capital Bogota, said her husband was “still in the army in Colombia” and that she would “apply for asylum for the safety of my children”.
“It’s very dangerous in Colombia for my children because of the gangs,” she said. “There is nothing for my children. It is safer here for my children in Jamestown.”
Brenda and her children share a dilapidated home with another immigrant named Ricaurte, 52, who said she told him about Jamestown while they were in detention together.
The house is owned by an Amish construction foreman who is friends with Max Martin.
“At immigration they asked for a phone number of someone in America. I gave them Brenda’s sister’s phone number and address in Jamestown,” Ricaurte said.
Ricaurte said he served in the army under the government that was replaced when former leftist M-19 rebel Gustavo Petro was elected president in June.
“When the new government made a peace treaty with the guerrillas, the guerrillas want to kill the soldiers who were against them. If I stay in Colombia, my life is in danger,” he said.
Carlos said his wife and two daughters lived with him until he sent them to stay with his wife’s brother in Chicago. Dan Cappellazzo for the NY Post
The Post also visited a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home that is home to 13 migrants, including six children aged 3 to 15, and had three beds in the living room.
During the deadly storm that buried the region last month, the site was without heat for three days, most likely because of a frozen gas pipe, resident Carlos, 33, said.
“We put plastic over the windows and put coats inside,” Carlos said. “The children continued to go to [hot air] vents, seeking warmth.”
Carlos said his wife and two daughters lived with him there until he moved them away from the harsh conditions to stay with his wife’s brother in Chicago.
“I’m worried I won’t be able to afford the rent. I don’t want my children to be homeless,” he said.
Carlos, who worked as a construction worker in Ibagué, said he “didn’t want to take a chance to work illegally because I risk being deported.”
And if he went to Chicago, Carlos said, “I’m afraid I might have to start the immigration process all over again. My papers say Jamestown.”
Martin, the community council president, said, “It’s been a shock to see the number of Latinos from Colombia coming to Jamestown.”
“The reason is the open border,” he said. “I would do the same, by the way, because of the freedom and opportunity we have in America. You can come here poor and become rich if you work backwards.
“The cold weather and the language barrier will not keep them away,” he added.
Jamestown Democratic Mayor Eddie Sundquist did not immediately respond to an interview request from The Post.
But Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel, a Republican, said he was concerned by the unfolding situation in Jamestown and had sought help from Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), whose aides did not offer none.
“Even if it’s 100 families, our school districts are small,” Wendel said. “Those schools don’t have the resources. If they don’t have a Spanish teacher, what are they going to do?”
Wendel added: “It can be overwhelming for us because how are we supposed to help these people?”
Spokespeople for Hochul and Schumer did not immediately return requests for comment.