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Uncovering the Stories of New York’s Population of Elderly Homeless Immigrants

This summary about homeless undocumented immigrants was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

Over the course of nine months, Documented reporter Rommel Ojeda had multiple in-depth conversations with over a dozen older undocumented immigrants who have been stuck in New York’s shelter system for years. These difficult conversations sometimes lasted eight hours at a time, taking place across multiple sessions. 

Many subjects ultimately pulled out, too swept up in the daily battle of figuring out their basic necessities to continue with the interview process. Others had no fixed address or phone number and simply fell out of touch. 

Documented is proud to today publish the full stories of three of those people: Karla from Africa, Ivan from Guyana and Julio from the Dominican Republic. They are told in their own words, which have been condensed and in some cases translated.

There are no numbers available on how many homeless undocumented immigrants are living in New York City’s shelters, since the city’s Department of Homeless Services does not keep track of immigration status. In the absence of statistics, Ojeda hoped to turn to personal narratives to help paint a picture of their experiences as homeless immigrants. 

“Initially, we wanted to run the series as a more normal news story, with some data, background information and quotes from the subjects connecting them. But when we realized we couldn’t find any data, we felt it was more important to showcase their stories directly, as they were told to me,” said Ojeda. 

What struck him was how the people he met were “at one point in their life, just like every other New Yorker.” 

“They had their documents, their passports, their homes, and slowly through the years they started to lose their employment, their money, to fall through the cracks,” he explained. 

“If somebody had a passport or a birth certificate, they could tap into certain programs, but because they don’t, there’s a domino effect — one thing starts to impact so many other things, to the point where they can never really get the assistance they need to get back on their feet.” 

Read more from Ivan, Julio, and Karla on Documented.


New York

Democrats, progressives slam Biden for using Title 42 to expel Venezuelan asylum seekers: Lawmakers including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley condemned the Biden administration for its continued use of Title 42, calling it “morally wrong, discriminatory and unlawful.” –Truthout

The migrant crisis, Eric Adams, and Politics 101: Two New York Times journalists discuss what the influx of migrants means for Adams and the city.  –The New York Times

Around the U.S. 

Barred from Medicaid, some pregnant immigrants have few options for care: A look at the impact of shortfalls in the US healthcare system on immigrant women in Iowa. –Side Effects Public Media, 89.3 WFPL

How Republicans are winning over Latino voters: Many who came to the U.S. illegally now support getting tough on immigration, which has made Republicans appealing to some Latino voters. –El Pais English

With ads, imagery and words, Republicans inject race into campaigns: By running ads portraying Black candidates as soft on crime, or as “different” or “dangerous,” Republicans have shed quiet defenses of such tactics for unabashed defiance. –New York Times

Ex-Trump aides behind scare ads attacking Democrats over immigration: Former aides, including Stephen Miller, are behind a recent ad blitz tying Democrats to hate crimes against Asian Americans and attacking Biden immigration policies. –Forbes

U.S. foreign-born population hits record nearly 47.9 million: The tally includes both the documented and undocumented population, and marks an increase of 2.9 million since Biden took office. –Center for Immigration Studies

Washington D.C.

(Opinion)Five unintended consequences of Biden’s immigration policies: Current policies have resulted in record migrant deaths, more unaccompanied children, and people waiting years for a hearing due to backlogs, a legal expert argues. –The Hill

(Opinion) U.S. immigration has become an elaborate bait and switch:Council on Foreign Relations fellow Edward Alden argues that the US immigration system is broken in a way that hurts migrants. –Foreign Policy

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