Brooklyn DA wants to see city support influx of asylum seekers and refugees
WILLIAMSBURG — Since this past spring nearly 15,000 migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have made their way to New York City, and Brooklyn’s District Attorney Eric Gonzalez wants to see his borough and city do what it can to support them.
“We’re really facing an opportunity for this community to stand up, to organize and support the asylum seekers who are coming into the city by the thousands,” Gonzalez said during a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Williamsburg on Monday.
“The numbers change day by day but in the last report there were 15,000 families, and many of them have walked over 2,000 miles to get here,” Gonzalez said. “We need to stand up for that community. We need to fight back against, ‘we don’t have room, we can’t accept that many people.’ About a third of those people are living here in Brooklyn. They are going to be our neighbors.”
Gonzalez recalled his own family’s migration from Puerto Rico to New York and New Jersey, where many of them worked as farmers. He said those coming to Brooklyn today are not much different.
“As they seek asylum, which normally takes anywhere between a year and a year-and-a-half, but during that time we have to make sure that we provide the resources and the commitment to welcome them,” Gonzalez said.
“So many of us share similar experiences,” he continued. “Like my family, many of these migrants are young kids who come here with hope and ambition, seeking help and protection from this country.”
Multiple studies, including one released by the Center for Global Development in March 2022, has suggested that refugees and asylum seekers have a positive economic impact in the United States. That study by the Center for Global Development suggested that between 2017 and 2020, when the previous presidential administration limited the number of refugees and asylum seekers it cost the United States an estimated $9.1 billion per year in economic activity.
During the event, Gonzalez was praised for the work he has done to keep immigrants safe. In 2017, his office hired immigration attorneys specifically to help avoid collateral consequences for immigrants facing charges such as deportation.
Gonzalez was also frequently vocal during that same time in calling to keep the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement out of local courthouses. He explained at the time that if immigrants feared going into courthouses it would be hard to get them to assist on cases and even testify at trial.
During Monday’s celebration, Gonzalez’s Office honored two people, Edward Caban, the first deputy police commissioner in the NYPD, and Bishop Dr. Kittim Silva, and it honored three organizations as well, the Police Athletic League, Mixteca Organization, and the Hispanic Federation.
Gonzalez had much to say about all the honorees, particularly the Hispanic Federation, which he said impressed him with their response to Hurricane Maria.
“If anyone wants to find out how they can get involved please feel free to do so,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve seen the efforts during Hurricane Maria where the Hispanic Federation really stepped up. Normally, I don’t endorse any kind of organizations, but I feel very comfortable saying that if you are looking to get involved and want to help out, please reach out to them at the end of today’s event.”
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