Supporting the Vulnerable: New York State Military Provides Aid and Assistance to Asylum Seekers in NYC

Operation Asylum Seeker, a joint effort involving over 2,000 members of the New York State Military Forces, namely the New York National Guard, New York Guard (State Defense Force), and Naval Militia (US Navy & US Marine Corps Reserve Troops), has been deployed to address the escalating migrant situation in New York City. This operation, initiated in October 2022, has steadily grown in scope. By June 2023, the city had received over 78,700 migrants, with approximately 2,200 arrivals in the preceding week. These individuals have fled their home countries due to dire circumstances such as extreme poverty, rampant gang violence, and political instability, seeking refuge and awaiting the adjudication of their entry cases into the United States.

Underpinning this endeavor, close to 1,600 New York State Military personnel are providing vital support. Operations are distributed across 50 hotels throughout New York City, supplemented by two dedicated relief centers. These dedicated troops undertake numerous responsibilities, including the registration and escorting of residents, welfare checks, and the provision of sustenance. Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Lefton, the commanding officer of the asylum seeker task force, emphasizes the significance of cultivating an atmosphere of hospitality and inclusivity for these migrants.

The New York State Military assumes a pivotal role in warmly receiving and assisting asylum seekers, treating them with utmost respect and compassion. By fostering trust and rapport, they help alleviate any apprehension and mistrust. Extensive training facilitated by the New York City Department of Homeless Services equips military personnel to discharge their duties effectively, enabling seamless access to essential aid for the migrants. While immediate outcomes may not always be evident, these service members derive fulfillment from their knowledge that they are effecting positive change and providing indispensable support to those in need.

Here is an article from DVIDS:

Over 2,000 NY Guard members have been on migrant support mission in New York

New York National Guard assists New York City with migrants

Courtesy Photo | New York Army National Guard Specialist Maria Hurtado provides food to a migrant at… read more



Story by Eric Durr

New York National Guard

NEW YORK- Over 2,000 New York State Military Forces members have taken part in Operation Asylum Seeker, the New York National Guard participation in the state’s response to the migrant upsurge into New York City since the mission launched in October, 2022.

As of June 18, according to New York City Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, the head of the city’s health and human services, New York City has taken in over 78,700 migrants since the spring of 2022. Many of these migrants have been bussed to the city by border state governors.

About 2,200 undocumented migrants had arrived in the city in the prior week, and 48,700 people were being housed in 174 sites, she said during a weekly briefing.

On October 4, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she was activating members of the New York National Guard to assist New York City officials dealing with the unexpected flow of migrants seeking asylum who were arriving in the city.

The initial order was for 100 personnel, but that quickly grew as more asylum seekers kept arriving by bus. By the end of October, 730 personnel were on duty.

As of June 27, after eight months of support, there were 1,581 personnel on the migrant response mission.

Since the start of the mission, 2,039 members of the New York Military Forces have committed 256,702 man-days to the effort.

A total of 1,414 Army National Guard Soldiers, 168 Air Guard Airmen, 354 Naval Militia members and 103 members of the New York Guard have been on duty supporting the migrants.

The 1,581 people on duty at the end of June were supporting operations in 50 hotels and two humanitarian relief centers.

For many months, New York National Guard Soldiers played a very visible role in assisting migrants who arrived in the city at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The Soldiers would determine if the asylum seekers needed transportation to another location, required housing or were looking for other family members. They would direct them to the proper city officials for support.

Now the Roosevelt Hotel on the east side of Midtown Manhattan serves that function and military personnel are doing the same things there, according to Lt. Col. Aaron Lefton, the commander of the asylum seeker task force.

At the hotels, the military personnel check residents in and out of the shelter, escort them to their rooms, conduct welfare checks and help to provide meals. Each hotel has a non-commissioned officer in charge who supervises three eight-hour shifts of personnel, according to Lefton.

New York City’s Department of Homeless Services trains the military personnel on their responsibilities and how to help the migrants get assistance when required, Lefton said.

The New York National Guard is also staffing a humanitarian shelter at the Police Academy at East 21st Street. The service members check clients in and out of the shelters, distribute meals and perform other administrative tasks, Lefton said.

The morale of the Soldiers, Airmen, Naval Militia and New York Guard members working the mission is good, Lefton said.
Sometimes, people don’t see the immediate results of their state active duty missions, he said.

In this case, the service members see how they are helping people, he said.

They greet people arriving in New York City. They treat them with dignity and compassion, and Spanish speakers are there to help answer their questions, Lefton explained.

“Our service members have built a rapport and trust with asylum seekers,” he said.

“Many of them have had negative experiences with the military during their travels or in their country of origin. Our service members have shared consistent messaging that we are here to help them to overcome apprehension and distrust for military,” he added.

“They have tried to create a warm, friendly and inclusive environment for these people,” Lefton said.

Sources: DVIDSAxios

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