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Hasidic nonprofit brings sneakers to greet asylum-seekers arriving in NYC from Texas

(RNS) — On any given day, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan is full of commuters and vacationers off to the workplace or to Broadway’s “The Lion King.” However since August, the world’s largest bus station has additionally welcomed 1000’s of asylum-seekers arriving on unscheduled buses from Texas.

“It’s like a bit of pop-up Ellis Island the place individuals are assembly volunteers with garments, sneakers and socks and different objects,” Alexander Rapaport, CEO of a Jewish nonprofit referred to as Masbia (which in Hebrew means “to satiate”), informed RNS in a telephone name. “There are volunteers telling them the place they will go, the place bogs are, how they will get extra assist.”

Simply earlier than daybreak on Monday (Sept. 19), 4 Masbia volunteers with a truckload of donations arrived on the triage heart, arrange by the New York Metropolis Mayor’s Workplace of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), the Port Authority and the governor’s workplace. They joined a handful of different nonprofits to greet three busloads of migrants (most of whom got here to the U.S. from Venezuela), handing them new sneakers, deodorant and tote luggage labeled “With Love from the Jewish Group.”

Masbia, a Hasidic Jewish group, is a New York Metropolis-based soup kitchen community whose aid group has been distributing sneakers on the triage heart since mid-August. Rapaport estimates they’ve donated 3,000 pairs of sneakers price tens of 1000’s of {dollars} and says many asylum-seekers arrive with out sneakers or in flip flops.

Masbia CEO Alexander Rapaport. Photograph courtesy of Masbia

“The folks, a few of them went by means of a lot horror, they’re so damaged, all we wish to do is give them their humanity again,” mentioned Rapaport.

Ruben Diaz, a chef who oversees the meals distribution at Masbia, informed RNS he’s given away sneakers on the Port Authority roughly a dozen occasions.

“After being in a bus for 2 days, with out meals, bathe, you’ll be able to see they’re a bit of determined,” he informed RNS. “At the moment there was an older girl, perhaps 60 years outdated, and it was powerful seeing any individual at that age coming to discover a new alternative presently of their life. After she left the Port Authority, what’s she going to do? The place is she going to discover a job? The language is a barrier. It’s onerous you can’t do way more for them.”

These arriving on the buses are coming from El Paso, Texas, the place Mayor Oscar Leeser is filling buses with migrants, in addition to from different Texas cities on buses sponsored by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Shaina Coronel, director of communications at MOIA, informed RNS that the migrants are asylum-seekers who’ve a authorized proper to be in the USA. Whereas some come to New York making an attempt to attach with native associates or household, she mentioned many have been unaware of the buses’ vacation spot and have household or court docket hearings in locations like Miami or Chicago. Neither Leeser nor Abbott returned requests for remark in time for publication.

Coronel mentioned attorneys on the triage heart can help the migrants with altering the situation for his or her hearings, whereas medical employees can intervene for many who’ve been caught on a bus for 50-plus hours. “Final week, a 2-year-old little one got here severely dehydrated, and our EMTs have been there to move him to the hospital. We’re seeing people in dire want of medical consideration.”

Asylum seekers exit a bus arriving from Texas at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, New York, on Aug. 19, 2022. Photo courtesy of Masbia

Asylum-seekers exit a bus arriving from Texas on the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, New York, on Aug. 19, 2022. Photograph courtesy of Masbia

For asylum-seekers who don’t have household close by and aren’t being transported elsewhere, New York Metropolis is ramping up its sheltering capability. Coronel says the town doesn’t at all times know when the buses of asylum-seekers will arrive.

“We’ve reached out to Abbott’s workplace to attempt to coordinate, and he refuses to coordinate with us. He truly had the bus corporations he’s utilizing signal a nondisclosure settlement to additionally not coordinate with us,” she mentioned.


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At this level, buses are arriving almost day-after-day.

“It’s nearly nonstop,” mentioned Rapaport. “There’s about 50 folks on a bus. At first it was lower than 100 folks per day, and it was solely 3 times per week. Now it’s near 300 folks a day, nearly day-after-day of the week.”

Regardless of the tense circumstances, Rapaport says the volunteers attempt to be cheerful when the buses arrive, greeting the asylum-seekers with smiles, indicators in Spanish and even a mannequin Statue of Liberty as an emblem of welcome. Rapaport says for him, it’s all an extension of his religion.

Masbia Relief Team members distribute aid to asylum seekers arriving at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, New York, on Aug. 19, 2022. Photo courtesy of Masbia

Masbia Reduction Group members distribute support to asylum-seekers arriving on the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, New York, on Aug. 19, 2022. Photograph courtesy of Masbia

“In Scripture, within the Bible, there’s a lot about welcoming the stranger, speaking about immigrants. You have been an immigrant to Egypt, and bringing bread and water to the passer-by. To me it’s a chance to place all that into motion.”

New York Metropolis estimates that over 11,000 asylum-seekers have entered the town in the previous couple of months. As politicians proceed to ship asylum-seekers to sanctuary cities and vacation destinations, Rapaport hopes the true lives of the asylum-seekers concerned aren’t forgotten.

“The humanity will get overshadowed by all of the political chatter,” mentioned Rapaport. “There’s a political component, however that shouldn’t be the one component. It’s not a recreation.”


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