Interview
"Republicans and Democrats use Venezuelan migrants for electoral fight"
Venezuelan community activist Robert González questions both Mayor Adams and Governor Abbott about the immigration crisis. Exclusively with LPO, he talks about the conditions of Venezuelans' arrival and how they are received.

Most of the hundreds of immigrants that have arrived in New York on chartered buses from Texas are Venezuelans, and one of the first faces they saw upon arriving was that of Robert González. Robert is also Venezuelan and has lived in New York for more than 22 years. He works with vulnerable communities and is the founder of the Diálogo por Venezuela (Dialogue for Venezuela) group. They provide emotional support to their migrant compatriots in New York. At present, at the community-based organization, Venezuelan Alliance is trying to address the crisis of new migrants arriving in the city on chartered buses from Texas.

Most of the people arriving in New York on these buses are Venezuelans. What special characteristics do they have?

The peculiarity is that the Venezuelan is an asylum seeker, that is, he or she shares the conditions with a refugee. At the moment a Venezuelan is crossing the border, he or she is at the disposal of the authorities as an asylum seeker and has to go through a migration center. Before arriving in New York they go through a process, some of them with unsuccessful or wrong appointments. They have spent about 3 months in the jungle crossing countries and then they spend 3 more days in these buses.

There are so many Venezuelans arriving after running away to save their lives. It is an exodus of people displaced from their place of origin by hunger, a crisis Venezuela is going through, and that, like Central Americana migration, is seeking to save their lives and improve their conditions. All these people left families and homes behind. Something made them leave their place. The migratory history of humanity has always been one of improving lives. I was able to choose where to go even though I wanted to save my life, but now they are fleeing rather than migrating.

Robert González

What is the journey of the people arriving in New York like?

I came to this country in the middle of a very similar crisis, which was the HIV crisis. I came by plane and with help, but I still left everything behind and tried to save my life. I also suffered trauma and a process of abandonment like the people who are arriving now.

This is a horrible journey, they have to go through a jungle first, and getting to Colombia is not easy. Paying to the immigration mafia is not accessible. Then they go round the Darién to get to Panama, people die there. They are robbed, raped, and if you do not have money, you have to subdue to the mafias.

This is a horrible journey, they have to go through a jungle, and getting to Colombia is not easy. Paying to the immigration mafia is not accessible. Then they go round the Darién to get to Panama, people die there. They are robbed, raped, and if you do not have money, you have to subdue to the mafias.

What do you think of the exchanges between the Governor of Texas and the Mayor of New York regarding immigrants?

Both the state of Texas and the city of New York are trying not to show the problem as an immigration crisis and how people do not receive the proper treatment they deserve as asylum seekers. The difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker is that the refugee requests it based in his or her country, and the asylum seeker requests it once he or she has arrived to the country.

The Governor of Texas takes the problem out of the state. I understand that there is a collapse, but he could also request federal resources, as New York does. In this situation, asylum seekers are a political tool.

Both Abbott and Adams are making a mistake by using a crisis for their interests. They are not doing things right and people are not treated with dignity. They run away from a specific situation, an exodus that both Republicans and Democrats avoid responsibility and use it for electoral fight. As community-based organizations, we must ask that humane treatment be guaranteed like for any person who requests refuge.

Adams contra Abbott, la guerra política de demócratas y republicanos por la crisis migratoria en la frontera

What mistakes do you observe in the process?

The first family that I went with to the processing center in the Bronx had the address of a wrong shelter and they were not accepted. There are too many mistakes they made and violations of basic rights, such as receiving truthful information. For example, what I do is to accompany them in this xenophobic system.

When they arrive in Texas, and for a day or a week, they are transferred to a processing center and depending on each case, it will take more or less time. Families are going to be separated. Men are sent elsewhere. Once processed, if they do not have a destination center, a relative for example, they go to temporary shelters of organizations like those in San Antonio. There are people who help them to go to another state. Lately, they have waited for them to go to New York or Washington, the famous buses chartered by Abott.

Once they arrive in New York, they feel helpless. If they are happy enough to go to the organization, they may have some information, but they arrive homeless. In normal conditions, there are 24-hour processes here, but now, for example, in the center of the Bronx, they are not prepared to accept so many people. They haven't eaten when they arrived, and they do not speak the language. They cannot go back anywhere, they do not have money, neither food. And in this center, for example, they received 150 people in a single weekend. They were given an overnight, a voucher for one night to sleep in a hotel. But at 7 in the morning they are kicked out and have to go back to the processing center. If they are lucky, they can stay 72 hours or a week, but they will have to go through the same trauma and wait for someone to assist them. Besides, no one on the street can help them. They are in a basement, like in jail, and they can be there 3 days, which Mayor Adams denies, but I have seen it with my own eyes.

The migrants sent by Abbott arrive homeless, they haven't eaten, they do not speak the language and have no money. They were given an overnight, a voucher for one night to sleep in a hotel. But at 7 in the morning they are kicked out and have to go back to the processing center. hey are in a basement, like in jail. Mayor Adams denies it, but I have seen it with my own eyes.

Mayor Adams insists he welcomes immigrants.

There are several deceptions in his speech, and although we know that the volume is complicated, its management is really bad. The Mayor says that he is dealing with an emergency, but he did say that he is going to treat them with dignity. He must think of a strategy, not just welcome them at the station and send them to centers not prepared for this volume. This is not welcoming them, they are in God's hands. The cases are different, because although it is very hard for the families, in the case of the men's center it is much worse. What we see at night on the streets of New York are people with mental problems, addictions. There they leave the men at night, when nobody is watching, people who are going to end in very hostile places.

What is missing in this crisis?

In other emergencies that New York has intercede, such as Hurricane María, after which many Puerto Ricans came, they called based organizations to help them. But now these health services organizations did not even know that people who arrived did so without bathing and eating. Some did not arrive in New York, they went to other places. Both the state of New York and Texas are violating these people's rights. But of course, if you walk 3 months in the jungle, eating only bread, you are so vulnerable that you are going to be grateful and are not going to complain. You are not going to rise up and protest. You won't demand anything, and they will led you like sheep.

The corruption and abuses they receive in Mexico are hard for them, but this is the world's capital, a city whose history is the history of migration. We must understand the homeless.

It is a non-aggressive migration, they do not choose to be homeless. We must offer essential conditions of accompaniment to those we have promised help. We know how hard it is to go through New York, it is uncaring and bureaucratic.

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