NYC struggling to keep up with demand of supporting asylum-seekers, Mayor Adams says

Around 57,200 asylum-seekers are under the city’s care, the mayor's office said.

August 8, 2023, 3:01 PM

New York City Mayor Eric Adams says his administration is straining to keep up with the demand of supporting thousands of asylum-seekers in the city as he calls on the federal government for more assistance.

"We're at capacity. We have been providing those food, shelter, clothing, food, educating children, making sure they get the level of dignity they deserve. But we cannot kid ourselves," Adams told ABC News.

According to the mayor's office, 57,200 asylum-seekers are currently in the city's care and nearly 100,000 migrants have arrived since last spring. A portion of the migrants have come from Texas as part of Gov. Greg Abbott's plan to bus migrants to so-called sanctuary cities.

"Before we started busing illegal immigrants up to New York, it was just Texas and Arizona that bore the brunt of all the chaos and all of the problems that come with it. Now the rest of American is understanding exactly what is going on," Abbott said last August.

PHOTO: New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks about the city's migrant crisis during an interview with "Nightline."
New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks about the city's migrant crisis during an interview with "Nightline."
ABC News

Adams criticized Abbott's remarks to "Nightline."

"[It's] dehumanizing to treat fellow human beings in this magnitude as political stunts, it's a wrong thing to do. And I say that with a clear understanding, no city should be going through this," Adams said.

Migrants arriving to the city from all over the world in recent days told ABC News that they came to New York City for a variety of reasons – to stay and find work or after hearing there are resources being provided to them.

Around 3,000 asylum-seekers are being housed in midtown Manhattan at the Roosevelt Hotel, which also serves as an intake center for the migrants, according to the city. Last week, a line of around 130 asylum seekers waiting to be processed began to form around the hotel, before they were moved to a church in queens on Thursday, Adams' chief of staff said at a news conference.

Many of the people in line told ABC News they didn't actually know what they were standing in line for, just that it was the very first step to seeking asylum.

Gledis González and her family recently arrived at the Roosevelt.

"We got here without knowing. We asked around, and then came here. And we're told it's a process where we might be sent somewhere else, or could stay here. We are waiting to be relocated, because there is no space here for us to stay," González said.

PHOTO: Hundreds of migrants are seen outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan early Aug. 2, 2023 in New York.
Hundreds of migrants are seen outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan early Aug. 2, 2023 in New York.
Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News via Getty Images

Asylum-seekers can apply for a work permit between five and six months after they submit their asylum applications.

"The delay is because we need to be in a permanent place and have an address, so that we can get our resident cards, and paperwork to start looking for job," Jesús Longart, González's husband, said.

Expediting that process is on the mayor's long to-do list.

"Every migrant I heard from, they said, 'We don't want your free food. We don't want you to clothe us. We don't want you to wash our clothing. We don't want you to give us anything. We want to work,'" Adams said.

But Adams says in order to expedite the work permitting process, he needs help from the federal government.

"All we need is the White House to give us that TPS (temporary protected status) to allow the men and women to work. The congressional delegation is calling for it. Local leaders are calling for it. Everyone is calling for it. It is something within our powers and there's no reason we're not doing it," Adams said.

Adams, along with New York's senators and the city's House Democrats, met in July with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Washington, D.C. Mayorkas said he would appoint a liaison to the city to coordinate on migrants.

Meanwhile, some New York residents have taken matters into their own hands, including Mammad Mahmoodi and his partner Sasha Allenby, founders of the local nonprofit EVLovesNYC. The couple first began cooking free meals for those in need at the start of the pandemic. Now with the help of around 40 volunteers, their focus has since shifted to delivering meals to thousands of migrants around the city.

"I genuinely feel that we are in the most prosperous city in the world. There are enough resources to provide for everyone. You know, if you look at it, in the grand scheme of things, we have a total of 107,000 people so far. That is less than 1.5% of the population of New York City that have come," Mahmoodi told ABC News.

ABC News' Mack Muldofsky, Izzie Mendez, Armando Garcia and Anneke Ball contributed to this report.

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