MIAMI, Fla. — According to a recent report by US Customs and Border Patrol, the number of migrant arrivals in South Florida this time of year is up five times what they were last year.
The strain is felt not only by the migrants themselves and the local communities but on the organizations trying to get them back on their feet.
“We are always full,” shared Carlos Naranjo.
He is a resettlement program manager at Church World Services, a global non-profit that specifically works to help refugees.
But this Miami office is faced with an interesting challenge.
There has been a volume that’s never been seen before of individuals asking for help.
“Right now, the numbers just exploded,” Naranjo said. “And we, the social services, are feeling the impacts of the influx in the Miami area.”
Naranjo said the number of Cuban and Haitian migrants knocking on their doors is unparalleled to anything they’ve experienced before. What was once a team of four social workers has grown to 20 in recent months.
Naranjo said they are now meeting clients in the lobby because there’s not enough room. And the reasons for migrants being there are endless.
“You see everything. Most of them come for their immigration citation, they want to get a solution, or they have a court pending, and they need advice from our legal department, they need representation," Naranjo said. “They need to apply or submit an asylum application, an employment card application. And you have some of them that are homeless or close to being homeless.”
While many come through the Mexican border, from Oct. 1 to early December, Border Patrol took custody of about 2,350 migrants in the Florida Keys, mainly Cubans and Haitians.
It’s a trend Naranjo doesn’t expect to slow down.
“Because of the problems in the region, the origin of the problem is there, and still there and will be there," Naranjo said."
So when these migrants arrive, the question is, how can they be helped?
Naranjo said the first step is orientation.
“That orientation, we kind of explain to them all the benefits they have in the area as well as all of the options they have in the area, like state benefits and match and grab, which is an employment program," he said. "And based on that, they are either referred to those options or to the legal department because many of them want to adjust their status or apply for the employment card.”
Migrants with CWS are also taught about American culture. They are enrolled in ESOL classes, and children are enrolled in schools.
Naranjo said while social services may not feel necessary to some, they are necessary to the migrants seeking services, and it’s important to help guide them through the difficult process of assimilation and make them feel welcome.
“They need support, they need food, they need work,” he explained. “We see a lot of cases that need support not just from our agency but all the support they can get from the community.”
Naranjo said migrants are then paired with the services they need. His agency meets with other organizations that are part of the South Florida consortium to help find solutions and vet what’s not working to find the best fit for each migrant family.
CWS has offices across the country and four in Florida.
If you would like to help, click here.