In Rome, Adams Sees a Model for Helping Migrants Assimilate

It didn’t take long for Mayor Eric Adams of New York to articulate what he liked about a welcome center for migrants and asylum seekers that he visited on Sunday in Rocca di Papa, a town about 15 miles outside Rome.

“In two months they’re going from migrant to participating in society,” Mr. Adams said after a 30-minute tour of the center, where migrants from countries including Syria and Sudan are processed, take Italian lessons and receive health care before being sent out for job opportunities.

The mayor, who has called on the federal government to expedite work permits and relocation assistance for migrants, repeated that appeal after visiting the center, which is run by the Red Cross and receives funding from the Italian government. He said he wanted help from the Biden administration to develop something similar in New York, where more than 190,000 migrants have arrived over the last two years.

Mr. Adams’s visit came on the last day of a three-day trip to Rome, where he met Pope Francis at the Vatican and spoke at an international conference on peace. The trip was a brief respite from varied troubles at home — protests over the Israel-Hamas war, a federal investigation into his campaign’s fund-raising, lagging poll numbers and possible challengers in next year’s primary — and Mr. Adams said it had inspired him and given him ideas that he would use in New York.

“The big takeaway for me is the similarities of these cities,” he said.

The mayor was received warmly in Rome: On Saturday, his often-used line comparing New York to other cities — in this case, “New York is the Rome of America” — drew applause. On Sunday, a child asked for his autograph.

“He seemed energized and refreshed,” said Frank Carone, the mayor’s former chief of staff and adviser who accompanied him on the trip and also greeted Pope Francis.

Indeed, Mr. Adams kept a packed schedule. On Sunday, he visited several houses of worship, joining a Mass at the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all’Isola before donning a skullcap and walking to the Great Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter. Finally, he visited the city’s mosque and Islamic cultural center.

“People of faith is needed as much as we need a government,” said Mr. Adams, who speaks often about how his Christian faith informs the way he governs.

In the Jewish Quarter, Mr. Adams stopped to view a poster with images of Israeli hostages in Gaza and reiterated his strong support for Israel.

“Bring the hostages home; destroy Hamas,” Mr. Adams said. “That is what must be done.”

The crowd broke into applause as the mayor jumped into a car headed to the Islamic Center. Back home, some critics, who have said the mayor has not been outspoken enough about the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, wondered whether Mr. Adams had truly absorbed the antiwar message that the pope conveyed at the conference.

In addition to speaking at the conference, the World Meeting on Human Fraternity, which was sponsored by a foundation founded by Pope Francis, Mr. Adams met on Saturday with the mayor of Rome, Roberto Gualtieri, and visited the site of a new underground metro station at the ancient Colosseum.

But the reality of being the mayor of the largest city in America began to creep back in on Sunday. During a virtual news conference, Mr. Adams was asked about the fatal police shooting of a man 4,000 miles away, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East Flatbush. And it seemed that the mayor’s frenetic schedule might have caught up with him.

During his visit to the migrant center in Rocca di Papa on Sunday morning, Mr. Adams was coughing. By the afternoon, the mayor had canceled his visit to the Community of Sant’Egidio, another group helping to integrate migrants into Italy, because he was sick, organizers said they were told.

The last of the mayor’s virtual news conferences, which he had held daily during his trip, was delayed by 30 minutes, and Mr. Adams coughed throughout the session. He blamed air conditioning for his cold.

Though Italy has struggled to handle its own influx of migrants, Claudio Betti, assistant to the president of the Community of Sant’Egidio, said he believed that his organization could help inspire New York as the city confronts the challenges posed by the migrant crisis.

At the group’s building in the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, migrants of more than 118 different nationalities studied Italian, a prerequisite to gaining residency or citizenship.

Some lived at the building. One migrant from Afghanistan said she had become fluent in Italian after studying there for almost two years.

“The idea is full integration,” Mr. Betti said. “Otherwise we would be creating more problems, not solving them.”

The group has a branch in New York that has also been working with migrants. At the news conference on Sunday, Mr. Betti invited Mr. Adams to visit it and said he hoped they would find ways to work together.

Mr. Adams, through sniffles, said he hoped to “continue to have that collaboration” back in New York.

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