It became apparent last week at the Roosevelt Hotel that the collection system was bursting at the seams. This elegant hotel serves as a registration center, but it was so full that some 200 asylum seekers were forced to sleep behind walls on the sidewalk. A Senegalese asylum-seeker told RTL News that he had been sleeping on the street for five days and had no idea how long he was still waiting.
In searching for more shelters, New Yorkers ended up with Randall’s Island, an island in the East River surrounded by highways, with few residents and amenities. A 2,000-seater tented camp is being built on a soccer field. Elsewhere in the city, asylum seekers are already housed in former prisons, gyms and tents in car parks.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams estimates that housing asylum seekers in his city will cost $12 billion over the next three years. It’s too much for New York alone, Adams says, so the Biden administration should step in. He wants the president to declare a state of emergency, because additional funds will then be available from the national government.
Adams also wants the government to make it easier for immigrants to obtain a work permit. “They want to work,” he says. “There is nothing more anti-American than not letting people work.” Finally, Mayor Adams calls for a better spread of immigrants across the country.
Right at the reception
The fact that the immigration crisis is so great in New York is because New York is the only major American city with a “right of reception”. This rule dates back to 1981, when a homeless man sued the New York City Council. He argued that New York owed its constitution to providing shelter for the homeless, and he was right. From then on, the city had to provide everyone who asked for a place to sleep. This applies to people who are homeless, but also to immigrants who are still awaiting residency status.
There is another important reason why so many immigrants come to New York. Republican border states like Texas send immigrants by bus to Democratic cities, especially New York and Washington, DC. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he’s doing it to relieve pressure on his border towns, but critics call it a political act on the shoulders of the weak.
New York does not seem to be able to solve the problems of receiving immigrants in the short term. President Biden has not yet pledged assistance, and migrants continue to arrive in the city every day. So Mayor Adams said he couldn’t comply with the right to shelter in this way.
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