No ‘Right to Shelter’ for ‘Asylum Seekers,’ NYC Mayor Says
No ‘Right to Shelter’ for ‘Asylum Seekers,’ NYC Mayor Says

By Bill Pan

Migrants who arrived in New York City from southern border states are not entitled to benefits offered by the city’s “right to shelter” policy, Mayor Eric Adams said on Wednesday.

Speaking on WABC’s “Sid & Friends” radio show, the Democratic mayor was asked if he would ever consider ending New York City’s status as a “sanctuary city,” given that his administration struggles to accommodate the needs of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who have been arriving by bus from border states since last spring.

“We cannot be a sanctuary city and complain,” said host Sid Rosenberg, citing criticisms about the city’s handling of the ongoing illegal immigration crisis. “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a sanctuary city and then complain about the influx of migrants.”

“The court ruled that this is a sanctuary city,” Adams replied. “We have a moral and legal obligation to fulfill that.”

“We don’t believe asylum seekers fall into the whole right-to-shelter conversation,” Adams said, referring to a 1979 law that requires the city’s homeless shelter system to provide a bed to anyone in need of one. “This is a crisis that must be addressed based on what was created on this national platform.”

Several activist groups took issue with Adams’s comments, arguing that it’s his job as a mayor to follow the law, not to interpret to whom the law applies.

“It’s not up to him to decide who can be excluded based on how they got here,” the New York Immigration Coalition wrote on Twitter. “Seems like his latest tactic to avoid fixing our shelter system—a crisis hurting too many NY families.”

“Flouting the law would accomplish nothing and such a move would only land this administration in front of a judge for contempt,” the Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Aid Society said in a statement. “The mayor must clarify his remarks from this morning immediately.”

In response to the condemnations, the mayor’s office argued that the Adams administration is working to fulfill its legal obligations amid the overwhelming circumstances that no one could have foreseen.

“Since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis last spring, Mayor Adams and this administration have taken extraordinary measures to provide shelter and support to the approximately 42,000 asylum seekers who have sought help from the city. We have already opened 79 hotels and four humanitarian relief centers, and another is scheduled to open shortly.”

As of Jan. 25, New York City’s shelter system is housing more than 69,000 people, according to the homeless services department’s latest daily report. This number, which is already a record-breaking high, does not account for the more than 40,000 recently arrived illegal immigrants who have applied for shelter.

In September 2022, Adams said the homeless shelter system was “nearing its breaking point” and that the city must “reassess” the way it puts the right-to-shelter policy in practice.

“In this new and unforeseen reality, where we expect thousands more to arrive every week going forward, the city’s system is nearing its breaking point,” Adams said at that time. “As a result, the city’s prior practices, which never contemplated the busing of thousands of people into New York City, must be reassessed.”

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