JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — A recent influx of Colombian migrants in Jamestown is leaving many in the area wondering why they chose Western New York to settle, and, how they got here.
President of the Hispanic Community Council of Chautauqua County, Max Martin, says a volunteer of his group was surprised when they heard someone with a Colombian accent at a local Tops.
“From that point on the help started. She immediately said, ‘what are you guys doing here?’ We crossed the border, we’re in Jamestown. And that is the reason I’m involved, because again, as you know, I help all the Hispanics, not just Hispanic, but my concentration is the Latino community,” explains Martin.
Martin says there are around 14 children, 15 families, and ten single adults that have migrated from Colombia to Jamestown. However, according to a phone call Martin received from the New York Port Authority on Wednesday, more are headed this way.
“I helped some of them get connected. I helped a family of four through an Amish friend of mine. They have a house here they use very shortly, maybe once or twice a week. He said, ‘hey, you can use my house’. So I have a family of four living in his house with the Amish which is awesome. He provided help with food and clothing, so if an Amish guy can do that, why not the rest of the community?” wonders Martin.
The idea to come to Jamestown specifically stems from word of mouth at a detention camp along the Mexico-U.S. Border. Currently, there is enough food and clothing supplies to support these migrants. Housing, however, is limited.
“We’ve got plenty of empty buildings in Jamestown, that we can utilize some spaces at least to get them together,” urges Martin.
Martin urges people with extra space in their homes to allow these families in until parents can get their working papers and find a job. After thoroughly vetting these migrants, Martin believes the adults all want to work, and some even left high paying careers in their country to come to America. The children are already registered in our public schools.
“If it was me, and I have a family of eleven people living in one room [and one bathroom], that’s a need? Of course it’s a dire need,” explains Martin.
This influx comes after a plan to send an influx of immigrants upstate, in an attempt to qualify for federal funding and reduce the stress on New York City was introduced by U.S. Senator Kristin Gillibrand in October. The idea was to have smaller cities take in migrants to make the cities eligible for $9 million dollars in federal funding from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
“If a non-for-profit that is already here does anything for those individuals, there’s millions and millions of dollars that they can request the government to get reimbursed. The millions and millions of dollars the government would give them if they do any service to the community that needs the help,” explains Martin.
The idea to bring migrants and refugees to Jamestown is not new, as just last April former Congressman Tom Reed agreed that Jamestown is the choice location because of the low cost of housing, job availability, easy access to healthcare services and support from local school programs.
This is part one of a multi-part special report series documenting immigration to Jamestown, NY. Part two will dig deeper into the push for federal resources, to help the area adapt to this new population. WNY News Now’s Justin Gould contributed to this report.