Mayor Adams announces office to oversee aid for asylum seekers


New York City will open a 24-hour center to welcome migrants and create a new agency to coordinate efforts to deal with the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers, Mayor Eric Adams has announced on Tuesday.

More than 50,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since last spring, and there has been an increase of 8,000 since last month. About 30,000 of the new arrivals are in city shelters.

The city has already tried tents, opened half a dozen hotels and suggested the idea of cruise ships to house newcomers. It has opened welcome centers, contracted with nonprofits and begged the state and federal government for help. The mayor even traveled to Washington and the border to highlight the city’s struggles.

New York City’s plan was announced as President Biden faces a broader immigration crisis, as people fleeing violence and economic problems in their countries have gathered at the southern border. The president is considering whether to revive a Trump-era policy to detain migrant families who cross the border illegally, ahead of the May 11 expiration of a public health order that allowed for migrants to be quickly expelled from the country.

The newly formed Office of Asylum Seeker Operations will coordinate the city’s efforts to house migrants and provide them with access to legal services in one place, moving migrants away from the current arrival point at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The city’s new blueprint also calls for coordinating with other cities willing to accept asylum seekers and creating a partnership with the State University of New York Sullivan, which agreed to take in 100 asylum seekers who would live on the school’s campus and receive work force training skills.

“I am concerned about what’s going to happen when the borders reopen. New York City is still a destination,” Mr. Adams said. “There’s still fake Facebook pages in countries that are stating: ‘come to New York,’” the mayor added. “So I am concerned, and so we need to be prepared for whatever is in the future.”

Details of the plan, such as the location of the arrival center, have not been worked out. The mayor also declined to disclose which cities might be interested in receiving migrants. Members of the news media “enjoy playing cities against cities,” he said.

Some volunteer organizations that have been stationed for months at Port Authority providing new arrivals with donations, food and help expressed concern that they will not be welcome at the city’s new arrival center.

Power Malu, of the group Artists Athletes Activists, greets buses arriving at the bus station and connects them with services. He said he was unsure of how the city’s announcements would affect the work his organization is doing.

“I think it’s a good idea that we’re going to have a 24-hour location. I just hope that they include us in the equation,” Mr. Malu said.

Mr. Adams said that the new location is part of an effort to create a strong structure to deal with a complicated issue, not a plan to shut anyone out. “We will make sure all those who want to assist the asylum seekers get an opportunity to do so,” the mayor said.

The blueprint laid out by the city lacked details about an issue raised for months by advocates: How to move shelter occupants into permanent housing. A report released Tuesday by the city comptroller, Brad Lander, calls for the city to “shift its focus to helping those in shelter.”

The city estimates that it will spend more than $4 billion to house and care for migrants in fiscal years 2023 and 2024. New York State has pledged $1 billion over the next two fiscal years and the city is expected to receive a large chunk of $800 million allocated by the federal government to help localities deal with the migrant crisis.

Murad Awawdeh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said he gave the Adams administrations credit for “putting out some semblance of a structured plan that they want to move forward with,” adding, “I just don’t know how they’re going to operationalize it or execute it.”

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