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Several busloads of asylum-seeking migrants arrived at Port Authority over the weekend, prompting the Adams administration to call for financial help from the federal government, and housing advocates to demand a more detailed accountability from the city.
The buses were directed to New York by Texas Governor Greg Abbott as part of his ongoing feud with the Biden administration over the country’s southern border, resulting in a group of 50 people arriving on Friday and 14 arriving early Sunday to Midtown’s Port Authority.
“I hope he follows through on his promise of welcoming all migrants with open arms so that our overrun and overwhelmed border towns can find relief,” said Abbott, but a statement from the mayor’s office appealed for federal aid while condemning the Republican governor for his use of people as “political pawns”.
“Governor Abbott is finally admitting to what we’ve known he’s been doing all along,” said the statement. “His continued use of human beings as political pawns is disgusting and an embarrassing stain on the state of Texas. New York will continue to welcome asylum seekers with open arms, as we have always have, but we are asking for resources to help do so. We need Washington DC’s assistance in dealing with the cruel political games being played by inept politicians like the governor of Texas.”
Meanwhile, the number of people housed in the city’s shelters has surged to over 50,000 as of this week, a 4,000-person increase from the spring. The Skyline Hotel on 10th Avenue has become a temporary shelter site for some families seeking asylum after the Department of Homeless Services struggled to find adequate housing for new arrivals, violating the city’s “right to shelter” law in late July.
Adams, speaking from Port Authority on Sunday alongside Manuel Castro, Commissioner of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, promised that the administration would ensure all arriving families were given shelter.
“I have to provide services for families that are here and that is what we’re going to do — it is our responsibility as a city,” said Mayor Adams. “We are proudly a ‘right to shelter state’ and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Highlighting the experience of asylum seekers sent to New York by Abbott, Adams added: “This is horrific. After months of traveling across the border, [to be] placed on a bus with no direction to come here to New York.”
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But some organizers were skeptical, commenting that the Mayor’s promises were more in service of good press than goodwill. In response to the city’s post showing the scenes at Port Authority, Meryl Ranzer, communications head for Respond Crisis Translation — an advocacy group providing interpretation and translation for migrants and refugees — who was a volunteer at Port Authority, disputed the Mayor’s depiction of his administration’s welcome wagon. “The Mayor used this inhumane situation to exploit migrants bussed to NYC,” she posted on Twitter. “He was there for a photo op. I tried to block him from getting pics handing a box of food brought by mutual aid groups — not the city — to a child, instead of using city resources to help people. Shame.”
Added another organizer, Yanny: “Some people in the mayor’s team were not wearing masks, yet they continued to approach family members despite being asked to leave them alone. While we tried to make sure people had food, water, shelter and a way to connect with their loved ones, the mayor’s office just took pics.”
Other volunteers told W42ST that they had escorted arriving families to the city’s shelters on Sunday, only to be turned away from multiple facilities. Posted one advocate on Twitter: “Adams showed up this morning waving and said ‘send them to shelters.’ People are getting turned away due to there not being enough beds. The city had and HAS NOOOO plan.”
The housing crunch is likely to continue, with additional arrivals expected at Port Authority over the coming weeks. Some organizations present on Sunday, like the South Bronx Mutual Aid, are asking for donations as a means to support arriving families with additional resources. Others have called upon the city to release a more detailed response plan.
In a joint statement from The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for Homeless New Yorkers, advocates vowed to keep close tabs on City Hall on their promise to support arriving migrants: “As representatives of homeless New Yorkers and the legal team who secured New York’s historic right to shelter law, we will continue to monitor this development, including onsite at the City’s shelter intake centers for both individuals and for families. We call on City Hall to immediately provide this Administration’s plan for addressing the needs of all migrants arriving in New York City and requiring our help.”