Wave Of Asylum Seekers Pushes New York City Mayor Eric Adams To Advocate For Policy Change

New York City has become a focal point in the national debate over immigration. Since spring 2022, more than 180,000 asylum seekers have passed through the city’s intake system, with officials busing in some from places along the United States’ southern border.

New York has struggled to house, feed, and process the influx of asylum seekers, prompting Mayor Eric Adams to ask federal officials for financial assistance and legislative changes.

Adams has advocated that the federal government employ a “decompression strategy” to spread asylum seekers across the country rather than simply to specific cities.

“Cities should not be handling a national crisis of this magnitude,” he stated in a January interview with “GMA3.” “We’re going to start seeing visuals of this calamity. We’ve done an excellent job, but we can’t keep doing this.”

But what does this strategy entail for the United States, which now has a backlog of 4.3 million immigration files, according to the Citizenship and Immigration Services office?


According to Syracuse University academics’ study of Department of Homeland Security data, the state of New York has an estimated backlog of 330,000 pending immigration applications.

“We’ve been asking the administration to address this issue for years,” said Marlene Galaz, head of immigrant rights policy at the New York Immigration Council. “So it’s really a problem of negligence, not a problem of migrants arriving.”

Several New York officials, including Mayor Adams, have agreed that seeking refuge in the United States is valid immigration. California, Washington, Texas, and New York share the

The ‘decompression strategy’

Immigration scholars and researchers have long recognized the recommended technique, according to Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow at the Migrant Policy Institute (MPI) and director of the MPI office at NYU School of Law. He said the technique for processing asylum-seeking migrants will be similar to the refugee resettlement schemes in existence across the country.

“We take refugees from abroad; they come in, and we—the federal government—decide where they’re going to settle,” Chishti added. “The federal government should decide where they go, not [Texas Gov. Greg] Abbott or the buses. And the federal government should base the choice on whether they have any relatives to live with, because family comes first. If they don’t have families, we send them to areas of the country where there is a need for labor and housing is cheap—not cheap, but affordable.”

Chishti then suggested that the federal government reimburse states that accept asylum seekers in order to prevent financial hardship and to encourage community development.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated on September 8 that “only Congress can really reform.”

She went on, “You hear us say it all the time: this broken system, which has been broken for the previous couple of decades, this immigration system—aand so, we—tthat may provide further support. The President has done everything he can from his perch, but we need more, and Congress must act.

The International Rescue Committee frequently places refugees in cities where they already have relatives or friends, or where an established community shares their language or culture, to facilitate a smoother transition to stability; however, refugees have the final say on where they settle. The cost of life and availability of healthcare are also considered.

“We have to accept that this is not a Texas versus New York problem or a rural vs. urban problem; this is a national problem,” Chishti added.

However, other immigration experts caution that the conditions for migrants bussed from Texas to New York City and Chicago have been insufficient or unsafe.

“We have reports of people having to go hours—up to eight hours—on buses with no air conditioning and no bathroom during the summer,” Galaz added. “It continues to use migrants as pawns, just moving them around without accounting for the people’s agency and means.”

Galaz stated that redistributing migrants may fail to recognize the “humanity of migrants and the community ties that they might or might already be building.”

According to New York City Council Member Alexa Avilés, the administration has not consulted with the Council on Adams’ proposed migration option.

“I’m not sure rerouting people to random places is actually going to address the screening problem we have with the current system,” Avilés added.

However, she stressed that this would necessitate the federal government “making meaningful capital investments into infrastructure.”

ABC News contacted Mayor Adams’ office for additional comment on the suggested immigration solution.

In January, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and other leaders from around the country sent an open letter to White House and Congressional leaders with infrastructure concerns: “Communities along the southern border, as well as interior states and cities across the country, lack the vast coordinated infrastructure needed to respond to the humanitarian and public safety concerns of those seeking lawful entry into the United States.”

New York’s current policies

Officials in New York City say they have opened more than 200 emergency sites to handle the flow of migrants, including more than 90 shelters.

The city and local advocacy groups had disagreed over the city’s right-to-shelter legislation, but they have recently reached an agreement on limits on migrants’ eligibility to stay in city shelters.

The Constitution of the State of New York specifies that “the aid, care, and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions, and in such manner and by such means, as the legislature may from time to time determine.”

According to the mayor’s administration, most adult migrants will now be required to leave New York City homeless shelters after 30 days and will be unable to reapply unless they are experiencing “extenuating circumstances.” Individuals under the age of 23 will receive 60 days of refuge. Migrant families with children will not be subject to these limitations.

According to the NYC Comptroller’s Office, families with children made up 78% of the asylum-seeking population in city-funded shelters in January.

The program initially provided families with children with 60 days notice to locate another shelter, prompting an investigation by New York City Comptroller Brad Lander.

In a January press release about the enactment of the law, the comptroller expressed concerns about the fiscal implications of the stated policy that the administration is executing. These concerns included the distribution of case management resources, the potential impact of evictions or shelter relocations on migrants’ ability to obtain work authorization and appropriate immigration status, and the costs associated with uprooting and moving families from their existing rooms and school communities.

New York City is likewise a sanctuary city, limiting its cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Adams appeared to call for a revision in these policies in response to many high-profile instances involving migrants in New York City.

“If you commit a felony, a violent act, we should be able to turn you over to ICE and have you deported,” the mayor stated during a press conference.

If an asylum seeker is charged with a crime but not convicted, New York’s sanctuary city status bars them from cooperating with ICE authorities.

When ABC News requested a response, the City Council stated that it had no intention to reconsider the sanctuary city rules.

“Our city’s sanctuary policies, quite frankly, just made us a safer city,” Avilés remarked in an interview. “Immigrant populations understand they can go to a hospital. They can communicate with first responders without fear of deportation. If they are facing workplace exploitation, they can take steps to resolve it. So sanctuary policies have simply made our city safer, and they help foster trust among New Yorkers.”

Immigration analysts and City Council members alike expressed anger and outrage at Adams’ plan, raising concerns about potentially handing over people who have not received due process.

“No one should be automatically deported from this country or turned over to ICE simply because they are suspected of a crime. “That simply does not fit into our constitutional system of due process,” Chishti stated.

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Jimmy Clyde
Jimmy Clyde
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