Mayor Eric Adams announces additional policies to help asylum seekers Mayor Eric Adams announces additional policies to help asylum seekers in the city’s care move out of shelters and create critically- needed spaces for arriving families with children seeking asylum at. City Hall, Wednesday, July 19 Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Eric Adams announced the city has started sending out 60-day ‘leave’ notices to adult asylum seekers and handing out flyers at the border discouraging others from coming due to a lack of space. Advocates on the ground condemn the move as “morally repugnant.”

According to the Mayor’s office, over 90,000 asylum seekers have come to the city since last year. Of the tens of thousands that have left already, at least 54,800 have stayed.

The notices will go to adults that have been here the longest, not families, in the over 185 emergency shelters and 13 humanitarian relief centers. The notices will be paired with case workers so asylum seekers can find alternative housing either with friends and families or other networks. The city requires those who can’t find somewhere else within the 60-day period to reapply for a new placement at the arrival center.

Power Malu is founder of the Artists, Athletes and Activists (AAA) organization. Both his parents are Puerto Rican immigrants. He was born and raised on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. He initially created AAA to help the island of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and then with pandemic relief in 2020. 

Malu heard, from rumors among his undocumented friends, that there would be buses arriving with people from the Texas border last year. His group has been on-the-ground triaging and assisting migrant arrivals at Port Authority bus terminals and airports ever since. They offer food, assist on cases, provide Ubers and Lyfts for transportation, enroll kids in schools, and help asylum seekers apply for benefits with grassroots fundraising, said Malu.

Plenty of asylum seekers have left for Canada, upstate, and other cities, while there are many in the city who have managed to find work, figured out how to share apartments, and overall want to leave the shelter system already, said Malu. Still, there’s a real language and culture barrier for migrants as well as instances of serious discrimination preventing people from accessing housing and services. And, others decide to sleep on the streets, said Malu. He predicts that more people will take that route under the new policy.

“There’s a lot of BS going on in the system,” he said.

He takes a real issue with the “horrible tactics” the city has engaged in to actively discourage migrants from coming, namely the temporary housing conditions and now the flyers at the border. He also doesn’t agree with the lack of long-term solutions to heal the city’s current homelessness crisis or the divisive rhetoric pitting vulnerable migrants against homeless individuals in need. 

“There are unhoused who have been in the shelter system for years, and they’ve been neglected,” said Malu., “Now that migrants are coming in, it’s like you’re forced to look at the shelter system and unveil what’s been happening since before they got here. The migrants are being punished because they are revealing how horrific the system has been for our unhoused population for years.”    

Malu applauded the city council’s move to get the City Fighting Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (CityFHEPS) voucher bills passed. He said the vouchers and more efforts to un-warehouse vacant apartments should help homeless people move their way into permanent housing, and feels that the expedition would free up more space for asylum seekers.

Other immigrant organizations across the board are “stunned” and “outraged” in response to the announcement, said Open Hearts Initiative Advocacy Coordinator & Neighborhood Organizer Bennett Reinhardt. He is adamant that the city’s new policy will make it harder for people to access support just as they are starting to make a home in their new communities.

“Without work authorization or rental assistance, it will be incredibly difficult for the thousands of individuals affected by this announcement to find places to go,” said Reinhardt in a statement. “Many have been trying to do so in the months since they first arrived in our city and have encountered the same struggles that so many New Yorkers face: an extremely limited amount of available affordable units, and systemic barriers to access.”

Adama Bah, 35, runs a grassroots organization, Afrikana, that has been on the ground helping Latino, Hispanic, African, and Caribbean migrants for the past year as well. Bah is originally from Guinea-Conakry in Africa and a former asylum seeker. 

She grew up in East Harlem with her family. In her book, “Accused: My Story of Injustice,” Bah tells her story as a Muslim American living in the city after the 9/11 terror attack in 2001. Subsequently, she was arrested as a teen with her father under false suspicions of being a terrorist in 2005. 

“Do they have any idea what I went through? It took me 16 years to become a citizen. I’ve already gone through the system,” said Bah. “It hasn’t changed.”

Bah said that the Mayor’s office has not fully acknowledged the plight of “Black migrants,” like the influx of Sudanese or Haitians, during this crisis. “Black migrants have really been left out of this conversation,” said Bah. 

Bah concurred that people have managed to find some jobs in places like restaurants or as home health aides as they try to get settled in the city. The notices are making people “nervous” though, said Bah.

Her main concern is an increase in homelessness because of the leave notices. “A lot of these migrants have lived in tents and are good at making makeshift shelters. You have now increased homelessness,” said Bah. She believes that the city should turn over shelter operations to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), similar to some places along the southern border. 

Despite constant criticism, Adams said at his conference that he considers his administration’s handling of the crisis “extremely successful” given the amount of pressure to immediately care for tens of thousands of people and handle other city obligations. He said that the city, along with Washington, Houston, Los Angeles, and Chicago, are being targeted. “This cannot continue. It’s not sustainable, and we’re not going to pretend as though it is sustainable,” said Adams. “This is wrong that New York City is carrying the weight of a national problem.” 

Adams is clear on his stance that there is “no more room in the city” and that there is desperate need for federal government support, he said. For him, it was a “difficult choice” but necessary to “honestly communicate” the severity of the situation the city is in regarding resources.

“Our goal is not to increase street homelessness. We don’t want to do that,” said Adams, “You don’t see the encampments, the tents, the cardboard boxes, people living the way you see in other municipalities, and we’re going to do everything that’s possible not to, but our cup has runneth over. We don’t have any more physical space.”

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom added that the policy will allow greater flexibility in assisting asylum seekers in finding where they may settle here in the city or with loved ones and friends. “The city is and will continue to help individuals and families find shelter and connect with services at their initial connection point with us,” she said. “We must then work together with partners at all levels of government to find options for where people will settle in order to continue relieving the pressure on New York City.”

Williams-Isom said that she and the mayor have not discussed closing down emergency sites yet.

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

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