“After Mayco Milano, a migrant from Venezuela, arrived in New York in late May, he spent a month walking all over Manhattan in search of work. Mr. Milano, who does not speak English, was turned down by countless restaurants. He landed a construction job, but it ended after three days, after he was asked for his Social Security number.
Then he came upon opportunity parked outside his door. Lining the sidewalks of the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, where Mr. Milano and hundreds of other recent migrants are housed, were dozens of mopeds that belonged to food delivery workers. Mr. Milano quickly decided that being a food courier was his quickest — and perhaps only — way to make a living.
He found a Venezuelan man in Queens who rents mopeds by the week; he found a Dominican man who supplies functional Uber Eats logins for a fee. And with that, Mr. Milano joined New York City’s shadow army of 65,000 food delivery workers.
Mr. Milano is one of some 110,000 migrants who arrived in New York City over the last year and a half — an influx that has become an existential crisis for the city, straining its social safety net, its budget and even its purported values. The struggle to house the migrants from the southern border has altered the national political landscape and upended traditional alliances, most notably testing the once-strong relationship between Mayor Eric Adams and President Biden.
But on the ground, the stakes for people like Mr. Milano are simple: They need work, and they are not allowed to work.
“In the shelter, they support you with a place to sleep and some meals,” he said, “but you also need to improve your circumstances on your own.””