New York State and New York City are doggedly trying to coordinate in their handling of asylum seekers, but continue to meet roadblocks at every turn. One thing is certain: People are united in their demand that the federal government do more.
Nearly 30 upstate counties have declared states of emergency over Mayor Eric Adams’s relocation plan to offset the city’s burden to shelter individuals. Adams was also forced to walk back plans to house asylum seekers in school gyms and possibly on Rikers Island last week because of backlash.
So far, leadership has surveyed state- and city-owned properties and schools, dorm rooms, empty hotels, former correctional facilities, former psychiatric centers, vacant buildings, and even large parking lots to house the thousands of asylum seekers arriving daily.
This Monday, May 22, Governor Kathy Hochul and Adams held a press conference calling for expedited work authorization for asylum seekers and more coordination with local municipalities across the state.
Adams spoke about the history of the city in accepting early Irish, Italian, Greek, and African immigrants. He said that people who came here did so in search of “the American dream.” He called on action from the federal government and proper immigration legislation to be passed in the “Republican-controlled Congress.” He added that there should be expansion in access to humanitarian parole for asylum seekers already in the United States and processed at the border.
“If these asylum seekers cannot work,” said Adams, “it is going to be a major impediment and interruption in the pursuit of that dream. And that is all they ask for.”
Adams echoed advocate sentiments that the city has been running on “emergency mode” too long and that is not a long-term solution to managing a crisis.
Hochul has expressed disappointment with various state counties’ resistance to house asylum seekers. She said the influx of migrants, as well as expedited work permits, would be a boon for local economies. She added that much of the resistance at the federal level stems from the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which has employer sanctions and a process for asylum seekers getting legal work status.
“I also do want to make a point that there are some voices on the right that are trying to say that this effort here would take away jobs from other people,” said Hochul. “I welcome them—anybody [who wants a job]—to come to Union Square today, go up to a farm. I’ll drive you there personally if you’re looking for a job, because there are so many jobs unfilled right now. I want to take that narrative [that migrants will take jobs away] and push it right back at everybody because that is false.”
Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), applauded the unified message from the mayor and governor to President Joe Biden to provide a better pathway for individuals to get work permits.
“Both acknowledged the opportunity that asylum seekers offer to help the state fill its labor gaps, and the desire of asylum seekers to get to work and become self-reliant,” said Awawdeh in a statement. “We appreciate the governor and the mayor’s acknowledgment of the much-needed coordination with local municipalities to promote a welcoming culture for asylum seekers and reject the racism and xenophobia of the past.”
Meanwhile, electeds like Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso are putting forth their own plans to address the need for immediate shelter and long-term, affordable housing, as well as craft a comprehensive response to the influx of asylum-seekers.
Reynoso has been joined by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Councilmembers Alexa Avilés, Rita Joseph, Chi Ossé, and Lincoln Restler; and representatives from the offices of Senators Andrew Gounardes and Julia Salazar, and Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest.
“Immigration is a national issue and must be met with a national solution,” said Reynoso. “ Just because President Biden is declining to show up in any real way for the cities that are taking in thousands and thousands of people seeking asylum, and just because we here in Brooklyn can’t do everything, doesn’t mean we can’t do something.”
Reynoso suggested the City Council, mayor, and governor take legal steps to end “warehousing” and move people who have been in the shelter system the longest into the tens of thousands of vacant apartments to free up space for those just arriving. He also said the city should pass legislation directing Adams to use government power to solve the homelessness crisis through the private sector and declare a public emergency in homelessness in general.
A breakdown of the proposal includes legislation that would add the arrival of migrants as an emergency under the Administrative Code, direct the mayor and city to lease market-rate apartments for housing homeless families toward creating space in the shelter for new arrivals, require landlords to prioritize renting to the city at the market rate to alleviate the burden, and ban the refusal to rent apartments to the city during an emergency or crisis.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.
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