JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — As Colombian migrants continue to seek Jamestown as refuge, the need for resources grows, and many residents are wondering where funding to help comes from.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist says the need for assistance will be the greatest while migrants wait for their working papers.
“These are asylum seekers, these are individuals that have come over the U.S. border. They have made Jamestown their home while they wait for their specific court date for asylum determination. So these individuals are here, they’re legally allowed to be here, and they’re in a spot where they’re having some trouble themselves,” explains Sundquist.
Most migrants, officials say, have skills, trades and want to work. Once they receive the proper paperwork, Sundquist believes there are more than enough local jobs available to support them. Until then, however, these migrants are in need of food and housing.
“If you don’t have an ID, you cannot participate in the food bank that is offered in WNY, they require an ID. You don’t have that, you’ve got to look elsewhere just to get a couple days supply of food,” says Sundquist.
So far, the Mayor has not had luck obtaining funding either through New York state, or federally.
“So there are some federal programs that I’ve had some conversations with Senator Schumer’s office, there’s some programs through FEMA that are available to individuals that have been released from DHS custody. So those are for funds that are expended,” explains Sundquist. “So the agencies that are working with these individuals can apply for reimbursement for funds that have been expended or spent on helping to house, feed, or provide services.”
Some government programs such as the Welcome Corps, would allow U.S. residents to help resettle refugees. It is currently unclear whether this program would apply to these Colombian asylum seekers as well.
The Mayor encourages members of the community, churches, and nonprofits to open their doors, and their hearts, to these new community members.
“Jamestown was built on immigration, right? We were built on having, my own family, right? Swedes, Italians, Polish, come and help build this city and go through that process. In many cases, these individuals are doing the same thing,” says Sundquist.
Just as it happened a hundred years ago, migrants in Jamestown seek to fulfill existing needs and create their own opportunities that will diversify the city.
“The reality is is that’s where our city has thrived. That’s where we found the most innovation as a city was from our immigrant population coming in, bringing in trades, bringing in skills, and that’s what moved us forward as a city,” says Sundquist.
Mayor Sundquist went on to say that one of the reasons these migrants likely chose Jamestown is because of its full four seasons, welcoming community, low cost of living, and plentiful job opportunities. Spanish speakers specifically do well in Jamestown, he says, because of the existing Hispanic population, as well as the programs in the city to learn English.
This is part two of a multi-part special report series documenting immigration to Jamestown, NY. On Monday, part three of our series will focus on how Jamestown Public Schools is helping migrant children transition to life in America. View part part one, “Migrants In Jamestown: Why They Chose To Resettle In WNY” here. WNY News Now’s Justin Gould contributed to this report.