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Asylum Seekers from Guinea in New York City Reconsider Their Decision

Thierno Sadou Barry walked from his homeless shelter near Times Square to Harlem, looking to buy inexpensive suitcases he could fill up with all his possessions. His wife, Oumou Barry, and their baby daughter had to leave the shelter where they had lived since their arrival in New York City nine months earlier, under recent city rules that limit shelter stays. The Barrys had fled political persecution in Guinea, but now they were facing eviction from the shelter, forcing them to question their choice to come to New York City.

As he walked, Mr. Barry cursed himself for leaving Guinea and coming to this cold, unforgiving place. Back home, he had been at risk of death, but now he was losing hope that he could ever send for his aging parents, his preschool-aged daughter, and his young sons. He couldn’t even send money home to support them. “I can’t even tell you how anxious, stressed and despairing I am right now,” he said. The recent evictions are part of an effort by the Adams administration to clear space for new immigrants who continue to arrive from the border, requiring migrant families to move every 60 days.

The Barrys, like tens of thousands of other migrants in the city, are waiting for their asylum application to be processed. Their political persecution claim seems strong, but the process is long and uncertain. They are stuck waiting in bureaucratic purgatory, increasingly worried that the place they traveled so far to reach does not want them. The Barrys arrived in New York City on March 26, after leaving their three children behind in Guinea. They felt lucky to find help from volunteers and a pro bono lawyer to navigate the asylum application process, but they also felt isolated and haunted by guilt for leaving their children behind.

While many migrants work off the books while they wait for legal clearance, the Barrys did not, terrified of jeopardizing their case. Instead, they signed up for English classes, hoping to have more options once they had work permits. However, the uncertainty of their situation was taking a toll on them. Mr. Barry regretted leaving Guinea and felt the frustration of waiting for an uncertain outcome.

Their asylum claim was based on political persecution, with Mr. Barry recalling instances of political unrest and persecution in Guinea, including a military coup and pressure from relatives to have their daughter undergo female genital mutilation. The uncertainty and the emotional distress of their situation weighed heavily on them. After being pushed from one shelter to another, the Barrys were struggling to find a sense of stability.

As Mr. Barry and his family moved from one shelter to another, they questioned their decision to come to New York City. The uncertainty of their asylum claim, the eviction from shelters, and the emotional toll of being separated from their children made them question if the new life they had hoped for was even possible. The Barrys’ story is just one of many as the city grapples with a growing population of migrant families seeking asylum and struggling to find their place in a foreign land.

Reporting by Andy Newman contributed to this article, shedding light on the difficult plight of Guinean asylum seekers seeking refuge in New York City. The hardships, uncertainties, and emotional struggles faced by the Barrys and other migrant families highlight the challenges of seeking asylum in a foreign country. These stories are a reminder of the human cost of political persecution and the difficult decisions that families are forced to make in their quest for safety and security.

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Forest Lawn Drive now free of RV encampment and parking

Nancy Sexton was thrilled when city crews cleared out more than 50 RVs in December that had been parked near her business for months, blocking parking spots and leaving behind trash and waste on Forest Lawn Drive.

Then she realized the long stretch of road near Barham Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills was suddenly off limits for not just parked RVs, but all parked vehicles. Much of the curb was painted red. No parking signs lined the sidewalk.

“It’s a dumb decision,” said Sexton, who owns the Muse Rooms, which offers leased office spaces. “It’s frustrating.”

The more than 50 RVs, which had been stationed along the winding road for months as a semi-permanent living encampment, were removed in December as part of the city’s operation known as Inside Safe. One goal of the program, which is part of Mayor Karen Bass’ initiative to bring people living on the streets indoors, is to end the cycle of homeless encampments being cleared by the city only to return a few weeks later.

But days after the RVs were removed, Sexton said, the curb was painted red and parking was limited. The new red zone is about a quarter mile long, running between Warner Bros. Studios’ Gate 9 entrance and North Coyote Canyon Drive.

The areas that do allow parking, meanwhile, have two-hour limits.

City officials also said the decision to restrict parking was done out of fire safety concerns, not to keep the RVs from resettling along the road. Sexton has her doubts.

The lack of parking along the street suddenly imposed a new, unexpected expense on her clients, prompting some to look elsewhere. The red curb has also become an irritation for some students and workers at the New York Film Academy and businesses nearby.

A road with RVs lining its right side.

RVs are parked on Forest Lawn Drive on June 27, 2023, in Burbank.

(David McNew/Getty Images)

Since the no-parking signs went up, Sexton said, she’s lost two regular members and two potential clients. All of them had aired concern about the lack of street parking and the added expense of paying $12 a day at the parking structure on site.

The parking fee, Sexton said, doubled the monthly costs for some members.

“I didn’t know how much of a problem it was going to be until there were people saying, ‘I can’t pay $12 a day,’ ” she said. “I’m really feeling it now.”

The situation highlights some of the unintended results as city officials look to address homelessness and the concerns of businesses and homeowners affected by makeshift encampments, whether they involve tents, vehicles, or both.

RV encampments have sprung up across the city amid a housing crisis that has left many people priced out of permanent homes. Local officials have looked for ways to address the issue, including new regulations that have targeted overnight RV parking.

According to the mayor’s office, the Inside Safe program has addressed 39 encampments so far, moving more than 2,400 people into interim housing and an additional 440 into permanent housing since December 2022.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said the RVs that were removed from Forest Lawn Drive were themselves causing parking issues in the area, as well as raising other significant safety and public health concerns.

Members of the surrounding community have said removing the RVs “has helped on all three fronts,” Seidl said in a statement. “This operation has saved lives.

Stella Stahl, spokesperson for Councilmember Nithya Raman, said the city has helped many of the RV residents along Forest Lawn Drive to find housing indoors.

In a statement, Stahl credited the decision to limit parking to a request by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which called the area a “high fire severity zone.” A 2019 brush fire in the area burned more than 30 acres and threatened homes and businesses.

In a Sept. 19, 2023, letter, LAFD Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman asked the city Department of Transportation to install “Tow Away No Stopping Any Time” restrictions on the road due to the stopped and parked vehicles there.

To avoid the hassle of looking for parking, cinematography students Sanchin Vinay, Yifan Xiang, and Davide Picci carpool to their classes at the New York Film Academy, which shares a building with the Muse Rooms. Eliminating the RVs has opened some spots to them, although Picci said they’d been able to find spaces on the street before — “really far down.”

A couch on a sidewalk near an RV.

The curb along Forest Lawn Drive, where someone has left a couch.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Sometimes they pay the $12 for the daily parking to avoid being late for class. Carpooling helps cushion the cost.

Leslie Bates, a film production instructor, said she heard of students and faculty members having “volatile” interactions with the RV residents.

Now that the RVs have

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