In the most sternly worded rebuke of the federal government yet, Mayor Eric Adams and other New York City officials demanded that the White House back New York with concrete plans to support asylum seekers in the coming months.
“Our national government has abandoned this city,” Adams said at a press conference on Wednesday at City Hall. “Everything we fought for is in jeopardy if we don’t get this right.”
City officials implored the federal government to expand humanitarian parole to include asylum seekers and urged D.C. to expedite asylum seeker work authorization. They asked the Biden administration to designate, redesignate or extend Temporary Protected Status for several countries, including Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cameroon. Adams also requested that the Biden administration increase the number of officials in immigration offices to process applications more quickly.
To bolster their message, city officials and Adams presented boards printed with recent figures: More than 55,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the City since the spring of 2022, almost 35,000 are still in the City’s care, and 103 emergency shelters have been opened. Adams said that about 200 asylum seekers a day are still arriving in New York, meanwhile, the federal government has not clarified why they haven’t provided more assistance to the City. “The national government has turned its back on New York City,” he said.
The first concern among asylum seekers is their ability to work, Adams said, emphasizing that the executive branch should take action without waiting for legislation from Congress. “This is in the lap of the President of the United States,” he said.
Manuel Castro, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, emphasized that if asylum seekers work “informally,” they’re at risk of being deported, potentially separated from families, and sent back to dangerous situations.
“For those who have endured the journey to get here, they now feel a sense of hopelessness,” Castro said. “Many feel that they are failing their families, and that their situation is turning from the search for the American dream, to a nightmare.”
As of the end of March, the City has spent more than $817 million to house and care for asylum seekers, said Jacques Jiha, the Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget. According to Jiha, per day, the City spends about $380 on each household, and projects spending about $4.3 billion in asylum-seeker-related costs by the end of June 2024.
He added that about $1 billion would come from the state, and the federal government has allocated $800 million for the entire country — but the City does not yet know how much of the federal funding it will receive. “No municipality can absorb this kind of cost without cracking,” Jiha said. “This is a huge burden.”
Adams stressed that all of New York City’s services are being affected by these billions of dollars allocated for asylum seekers and reiterated that the administration was not falsifying these estimates, rejecting criticisms from advocates about exaggerating the numbers the City would be spending on services for asylum seekers.
Adams also raised serious concerns about how New York City would be affected when Title 42 lifts in May, noting that some asylum seekers who are waiting at the U.S.-Mexico border may make their way to New York — especially with what Adams characterized as “no real plan” from the White House for what will happen when the policy ends. “What do you think is going to happen? Thousands of people are waiting to come across the border and potentially end up in New York City,” he said, adding that the number of asylum seekers could jump up to more than 100,000 after Title 42 expires. “This is unimaginable how this can destabilize our city.”