Mayor Adams admitted Thursday that his administration violated the law by failing to house several asylum-seeking families in a timely manner earlier this week as the city’s shelter system reels from a recent influx of thousands of Latin American migrants.
As a “right-to-shelter” state, New York is required by law to provide same-day housing for any adult who arrives by 10 p.m. with children at a homeless shelter.
But at a Thursday afternoon news conference, Adams acknowledged that four South and Central American families were not admitted to city shelters within the requisite window Sunday night, forcing them to sleep on the floor of an intake center in the Bronx.
“We should have done better,” Adams told reporters at City Hall. “We violated the letter of the law.”
Joined by Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins and other top deputies, Adams said the screwup was the result of an “unprecedented surge” of roughly 3,000 migrants since May. Many of the migrants seeking asylum came from Venezuela, crossed the U.S. southern border and ended up in New York.
But exactly why so many arrive in the Big Apple is a mystery.
Adams pointed fingers at Arizona and Texas for the wave of migrants, saying Republican leaders there directed the desperate travelers to New York instead of providing shelter for them in their states. But officials in those states say they turned the migrants over to federal authorities before they traveled to New York.
Adding to the confusion, Mario Russell, director of refugee services for Catholic Charities New York, told the Daily News that many migrants his group has spoken to have no known ties to New York and say they were directed here by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
“What we don’t know is who is giving them that directive. Is it something happening at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security? Is it happening at the local level, at the regional level?” Russell wondered.
Regardless, Adams said his administration welcomes the migrants with open arms because “this city is so humane.” He commended city housing officials for finding shelter beds for most of the recent arrivals, saying “job well done.”
“This is the best city for people who are seeking housing,” Adams told reporters. “Nowhere better than New York.”
The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless, which represent some of the recently arrived asylum seekers, accused Adams of sugar-coating a “humanitarian crisis” at city shelters.
The groups claimed they had spoken to eight families with children who slept on the floor of the Bronx intake facility Wednesday night in violation of the law, in addition to the four families Adams acknowledged.
“Enough with the self-aggrandizing. Our clients deserve a plan, and we’re prepared to file immediate litigation should the Adams administration continue to violate the law,” the groups said.
Meanwhile, people seeking shelter at a Bronx intake center described a chaotic, overwhelmed system.
While waiting in line Thursday afternoon, Erika Vargas, an asylum seeker from Colombia, said her adult son was denied entry Wednesday night to a city shelter where they had previously been admitted. Her son spent the night in a subway station.
“It’s been really hard honestly … I need my son to be with me,” Vargas said, speaking in Spanish.
She said her family decided to make the arduous trek to the U.S. because of gang violence. Her son was detained in Colombia for weeks before being able to reunite with her and the rest of her family in New York about 10 days ago, she said.
“We just want working papers so that we can get jobs,” Vargas said.
President Biden’s administration is in talks with City Hall about providing emergency support to help shelter some of the migrants, Adams said. The city is also exploring renting hotel rooms and using them as shelter space, he added.
“This administration is made up of human beings. Human beings drop the ball sometimes,” Adams said.
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