Due to the requirements of humanitarian assistance for a wave of immigrants arriving in New York City, about 2,500 people a week, at the beginning of August 2023, the city's Mayor's Office announced the installation of a shelter to house about 300 Immigrants on Staten Island. The decision was met with strong opposition from the community, which alleged that the shelter represented a threat to community security.
On August 22, 2023, a group of Staten Island politicians and residents filed a lawsuit seeking a ban on the opening of an immigrant shelter in the borough. The shelter, located in a school that closed in 2018, has a capacity for 300 people and is located a few meters from a Catholic girls' school.
In response to the lawsuit, New York City argued that the shelter was necessary to care for immigrants arriving in the city. The city noted that the shelter was located in a safe area and was well-managed. He also stated that neighbors' concerns were unfounded.
Previously, in June 2023, the New York Mayor's Office had filed a lawsuit against 31 counties in the State of New York for issuing executive orders to prevent Mayor Eric Adams' Administration from transferring immigrants to hotels located in those jurisdictions.
Mayor's officials noted that those counties had attempted to close their doors rather than assist New York City's reasonable and lawful efforts to address the immigration crisis, demanding the court declare those executives' orders null and void to be able to locate migrants in those counties.
These officials indicated that although the New York Mayor's Office was going to assume all the expenses, the counties had used executive orders based on misleading information that these transfers of migrants to their jurisdictions would otherwise constitute an emergency that would endanger public security.
But on September 8, 2023, New York City Mayor Eric Adams made a public statement saying that the mass immigration to the city in the last year will destroy New York, in his latest dramatic call for greater involvement of the central government to control the migratory flow.
"I have never had a problem in my life that I didn't see an end to. I don't see an end to this. This thing is going to destroy New York," Adams stated in the most dramatic statements that were reported by all the media. Adams went on to say, “We are now seeing that people from all over the world have decided to cross the southern part of the border and come to New York City. And everyone says it's a New York City problem. All communities in this city will be affected. We have a deficit of 12 billion dollars that we are going to have to cut. All services in this city will be affected, all of us.”
And then he concluded by saying that this problem is going to reach all the neighborhoods of the city: “All of us will be affected by this. I said it last year when we had 15,000. And I tell you now, with 110,000, the city we know is about to disappear, and we are all in this together.”
A basic security concept
As a starting point in our analysis, we must define a broad concept of security: Security is the set of material conditions that allow the full realization of people and communities, being at its highest level, the nation. This concept uses as a starting point the French objective concept of security, which indicates that it is an objective situation, based on material, economic, and political conditions, which entails the absence of danger to people or threats to property and determines trust. (Situation objective, reposant sur des conditions matérielles, économiques, politiques, qui entraîne l'absence de dangers pour les personnes ou de menaces pour les biens et qui détermine la confiance. Académie française, Dictionnaire de l'Académie française. Paris. Imprimerie Nationale, 1992, s. v. ‘Securitè’.)
The difference between both concepts is the positivist approach of the first (allowing full realization) and the negativist approach of the second (the absence of danger or threats).
However, both agree on the objective aspect of security, compared to positions that give the concept a subjective approach, which emphasizes the perception of material conditions.
Given these two basic concepts, when interpreting the neighbors of the Staten Island community that was mentioned and their complaints about the threats to their security, we must do a two-step analysis. First, for security, the community refers to the material conditions for its full realization, that is, the course of events in its daily life is projected towards its plenitude, which is none other than the common good of its neighborhood and the contribution of that well-being in its interaction with other communities, integrated into the achievement of the nation. Or, in terms of the French concept, the absence of danger to people or threats to the property.
Second, in the previous context, threats to security are concrete situations, tangible or intangible, that produce an alteration, even potential, of the material, economic, social, or political conditions affecting the full realization of the community.
The situation that generates this conflict in the community of Staten Island in New York has its origin in a reality that takes place thousands of kilometres from the city.
In Latin America, a hostile political environment has been consolidating, characterized by threats directed against States and their democratic systems, whose main objective is to undermine the rules of operation of their national communities. Democratic institutions have lost prestige among citizens, emerging a strong apathy or rejection towards traditional political forces, a decline that has affected trust in both governments and existing political systems.
Corruption is the most visible of these threats
Corruption is a complex phenomenon that in many governments on the American continent has become corporatized; that is, it has acquired a structure similar to business corporations but intended to use public power to obtain individual and collective benefits for its members. Although corruption is a global problem that affects all countries, regardless of their level of development, it is its corporatist reach that is creating a highly conflictive social environment that threatens to extend beyond the borders of those countries. Corruption has a negative impact on international security in different ways.
First, it weakens the ability of the State to fulfill its basic functions, such as the provision of public services, the protection of human rights, and law enforcement. This can generate political and social instability, which facilitates the establishment of transnational threats, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime.
Secondly, corruption can generate incentives for States themselves to participate in illicit activities, such as the illegal exploitation of minerals, arms trafficking, human trafficking, or the financing of terrorism. This can lead to regional and global instability.
And in a third aspect, corruption hinders international cooperation to address transnational threats. Corrupt states may be reluctant to share information or cooperate with other countries to combat the aforementioned illicit activities.
The main problem that the corporatized corruption of governments causes is that the obscene plundering of public resources leaves social needs aside, imposing the impoverishment of the vast majority of citizens. The persistence of this ignominious situation, which with the change of governments in power does not seem to cease, many citizens of these countries, aware of a hopeless future, have opted for the exodus to countries with better institutional performance, making migration itself, is a challenge for the security of the nations towards whose territories they set the course.
Migrants are not the specific threats. They are the regimes in which these criminal corporations are entrenched and use public power to develop their criminal activities, gobbling up the resources that belong to the people of those countries.
They are transversal threats because they are not limited to a specific geographic area since they affect several countries with a regional and supraregional scope.
The complexity of these threats of a state nature is that even when they are duly identified, their approach and treatment are intricate since the architects of these behaviors use as a shield the so-called principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of the countries.
Summarizing what has been explained, it is true that the national impact of these threats reaches different areas of their communities, such as the economy, public security, the free exercise of citizenship, and the environment.
The fact that the origin of transversal threats is found in other countries has a significant impact on the security expectations of a community like Staten Island. On the one hand, it generates a feeling of insecurity and vulnerability since the community is exposed to threats that originate from other places. In another area, it makes prevention and response to threats difficult, since public authorities have insurmountable limitations in coordinating with other government bodies, which in turn are unable to obtain the cooperation of public representatives from other countries.
These transversal threats are causing collateral conflicts in communities like Staten Island, at New York, which consider that their security is threatened.
On the other hand, a climate of fear and mistrust has been generated, which can lead to discrimination and rejection of vulnerable groups, such as migrants, in contrast, there is the perception of an increase in crime and violence, which negatively affect the security of communities that find migration as the cause of these emerging situations. But in its most negative aspect, the material conditions of coexistence point towards an increase in social inequality, which can create tensions and conflicts between different social groups or between residents and refugee migrants.
Collateral conflicts are those that occur as a consequence of a main conflict. They may be conflicts internal or external to the main conflict and may involve parties who are not directly involved in the main conflict. Internal collateral conflicts can have a significant impact on the region or country where they occur. In the topic we are addressing, displacement represents an expression of the advanced collapse in social trust. But this impact is equally relevant in countries that are affected by the expansion of the main conflict. External collateral conflicts can be difficult to prevent, contain, or resolve because their origin is in another country, and addressing this transversal threat requires the use of State strategies, something to which the local community authorities do not have access. They must address the immediate consequences of emerging situations.
Being a transversal threat, an integrated response is required at the different levels of public management where external collateral conflicts manifest.
Denial and imposition
Determining a security threat is an idealization of a future event caused by material, tangible, and intangible elements capable of causing a change in the conditions that provide a community with a sense of security. It is essentially a futuristic.
A community is co-responsible for consolidating the material security conditions, but it does not have, because it cannot, sufficient capabilities to face all the challenges that arise in its implementation. A significant responsibility falls on the public administration.
But in this particular case, the decision to alter the material conditions of the community apparently comes from the public administration itself, which decided to establish a shelter for 300 people completely unknown to the community. As seen in this case, the public administration dismisses the community's perception of the consequences of this decision, pointing it out as unfounded, precisely because it is a futuristic that cannot be verified, neither in the present time nor materially, because the damage has not been inflicted. But this disdainful statement about a potential threat does not provide certainty about its improbability.
But what is surprising are the statements by the Mayor of New York several days later, indicating that the city is headed towards its destruction, which is precisely the fear openly expressed by the residents of Staten Island.
It is not necessary to develop a critical analysis to present a threatening scenario in the future because the Mayor of New York admitted its probability.
So, it is possible to affirm that the public administration refused to assess a potential security threat that is being inflicted by the administration itself, denying communities to participate freely in the exercise of the management of public affairs that are of interest to their community and security.
The public administration has the responsibility of guaranteeing the security of communities. However, in this case, the public administration decided to establish an immigrant shelter without carrying out a comprehensive evaluation of the immigrants who would be housed in the shelter. The public administration also refused to develop a plan to mitigate any negative impact the shelter could have on the community. These actions of the public administration can be considered a security threat to the community. The community has the right to express its concerns about the arrival of large numbers of unknown people into its community. Public administration must take these concerns into account and work with the community to develop a plan that ensures everyone's security.
The refusal of the public administration to allow communities to participate freely in the management of public affairs that are of interest to their security is a violation of community rights. The community has the right to be consulted about decisions that affect its security. The public administration must guarantee that communities have an active role in making decisions about the installation of immigrant shelters.
The Ouroboros of the emerging threats
The myth of the snake that bites its tail is known as Ouroboros. It is an ancient symbol found in many different cultures, and it represents the idea of a cycle or endless loop.
In Greek mythology, Ouroboros (οὐροβόρος) was a giant snake that circled the world and bit its tail. It represented the cycle of life and death and the idea that the beginning and the end are one. In the context of collateral conflicts, Ouroboros may represent the idea that conflicts can generate more conflicts. Interaction in other spaces can generate an increase in tension, a product of resistance to change in communities alien to the original material reality. This, in turn, can generate new conflicts, which can create a cycle of violence and instability.
Analyzing the cause of the original threats in the countries of origin of the migrants, we indicate that the weakening of political institutions was causing a deterioration in democratic quality, which allowed totalitarian factors to emerge that denied the possibility of full realization of the communities. In this case, the New York City authorities have been making decisions with strong rejection in the communities, which results in a decrease in citizen confidence in the government system. Despite this, the authorities refuse to create channels of conciliation and consensus, typical of a democratic environment, and advance their interpretation of reality, using public power to impose their decisions. But another aspect is generating alarm both in the control bodies and in the citizens.
Currently, the city of New York has signed, within the framework of the immigration emergency, nearly 4 billion dollars in contracts related to the immigration crisis, where only 2% of the allocated resources were made through regular bidding processes. The alerts about the opaque management of financial resources take into account aspects such as the fact that some 2.2 billion dollars have been channeled through a non-profit organization in the city, the New York Health and Hospitals Corp., whose management lacks the strict regulations of other local government agencies.
In this context, specific criticisms have been spreading about the opacity in managing New York City resources in the immigration crisis.
The city administration has been accused of not providing sufficient information about contracts related to the immigration crisis. In some cases, information on contracts is scarce or incomplete, making public control over the use of public resources difficult.
The city administration has also been accused of not complying with the laws and regulations that govern the awarding of public contracts. In some cases, the city has awarded contracts without going through regular bidding processes or has awarded contracts to companies that do not meet legal requirements. Likewise, cases of conflict of interest have been reported in the awarding of contracts related to the declared emergency. In some cases, contracts have been awarded to companies linked to public officials, which could raise suspicions of corruption.
This means that decisions on the use of public resources are being made outside of regular administrative channels, evading the relevant controls.
These factors point to the possible corporatization of the management of the city's financial resources under the umbrella of the immigration emergency. This has led to the assumption of the existence of similar issues that have been causing the destabilization of the countries from which the immigrants come. The rejection of the decisions of the New York authorities by the communities is a symptom that municipal management is beginning to be questioned, which could cause a governance crisis. When authorities make decisions that do not respond to the needs of the population, tensions and conflicts are generated that can lead to the instability of the democratic system.
If, in addition to the corporatization of the management of public resources, the authorities refuse to create channels of conciliation and consensus with their communities, the management of the New York government will only fuel citizen discontent and distrust.
To overcome this situation, it is necessary to strengthen political institutions and promote citizen participation. This requires an effort from all actors involved.
The weakening of political institutions in migrant-receiving communities is a complex problem that has a negative impact on the security and well-being of resident citizens. It is necessary to take measures to strengthen political institutions and promote citizen participation to understand the original threats of the countries that have caused the displacement of their population from becoming emerging threats in the host places.
Perhaps what the Mayor of New York says is true when he warns that the city that is currently known is at risk of disappearing, but very possibly, the causes of this destruction are taking place in the public administration itself.