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Migrant influx: New York City seeks to suspend 'right to shelter'

Mayor Eric Adams says as many as 700 asylum-seekers are arriving each day, and the city is running out of resources to house them.
Migrant influx: New York City seeks to suspend 'right to shelter'
Posted at 11:39 AM, May 24, 2023

New York City's mayor is looking to suspend the city's long-standing "right to shelter" mandate, citing an influx of migrants from the southern border.

Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement Tuesday that the city has filed an application asking a court to modify a 1981 consent decree that required New York City to provide temporary shelter to anyone seeking it. But with the arrival of more than 65,000 asylum seekers since last April, Mayor Adams says resources are stretched thin.

"Given that we’re unable to provide care for an unlimited number of people and are already overextended, it is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border," Mayor Adams said in a statement. "Being dishonest about this will only result in our system collapsing, and we need our government partners to know the truth and do their share."

Adams said he isn't seeking to permanently end the right to shelter but wants "clarity from the court" on how to deal with the issue.

"For more than a year, New York City has — largely on its own — provided shelter, food, clothing, and more to over 70,000 migrants who have arrived in our city," he said. "We now have more asylum seekers in our care than New Yorkers experiencing homelessness when we came into office."

SEE MORE: Inside the chaotic system of New York's immigration services

New York City is currently providing shelter for more than 80,000 people, according to recent data from the Department of Homeless Services. In recent months the city has turned to hotels, schools, and even a massive refugee-style camp to house the influx of migrants. According to Adams, the constant stream of people could end up costing the city as much as $4 billion, if not more.

Earlier this month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order allocating $1 billion in state funds to address the issue, but Mayor Adams has been critical of the Biden administration for not doing enough to help. 

"Our cities are being undermined. And we don't deserve this. Migrants don't deserve this. And the people who live in these cities don't deserve this," Adams said earlier this year. "We expect more from our national leaders to address this issue in a real way." 

In recent weeks, the city temporarily suspended some of the rules related to its longstanding "right to shelter" mandate. One of the rules set a nightly deadline for the placement of newly arrived families in shelters. Another required the city to house families in private rooms with bathrooms and kitchens, rather than in communal spaces. But the recent measures have sparked criticism from advocates who say they put children at risk of violence and sexual abuse. 

SEE MORE: New York City migrants refuse relocation, say new center is 'inhumane'

New York City has also begun sending some migrants to neighboring cities, prompting complaints that the city was dumping its problems on other communities. One of the towns Adams sent migrants was Orangeburg, New York, a town of about 4,500 residents in Rockland County.

"I would think if the mayor is going to come up with a ridiculous plan like this which is not viable and not workable," said Rockland County executive Ed Day. "He should have picked up a phone and contacted us and truly coordinated this."

Republican-led border states began busing migrants to northern "sanctuary cities" last year to draw attention to the ongoing border crisis. Now, Mayor Adams says his city has simply run out of options. 

"No one could have contemplated, foresaw, or even remotely imagined a mass influx of individuals entering our system — more than doubling our census count in slightly over a year," he said in a statement. "Our city has done more to support asylum seekers than any other city in the nation, but the unfortunate reality is that the city has extended itself further than its resources will allow."

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