Editorial credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com
By JR Holguin
Mayor Eric Adams and his administration are attempting to tackle the asylum seeker issue from all angles; Adams requested a change be made to the consent accordance that had been in place for 40 years and had established the city’s entitlement to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
Adams is asking to absolve the city from its commitment under the law to provide refuge when it lacks the resources and competence to do so. By introducing a clause that would exempt the city from giving sanctuary to homeless single adults if it lacks space within the current shelter system, the proposed revision attempts to amend the 1984 Callahan v. Carey decision.
Though Adams stated that he would only be temporary, he was not free of criticism. The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless, involved in the original consent decree, issued a joint statement strongly opposing the motion. “This is not who we are as a city,” they argued that the city is abandoning its most vulnerable residents and “will vigorously oppose any motion from this Administration that seeks to undo these fundamental protections that have long defined our city.”
Expedite Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers
Adams is asking the federal government to have expedited work authorization for the influx of asylum seekers that are arriving in the country and then being transported to New York City, highlighting the labor shortage the state is experiencing.
Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul urged the White House to relax the 180-day waiting period before asylum seekers receive a legal work permit and to renew “temporary protected status” for migrants turning up from countries, including Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, for an additional 18-month period.
“Over 5,000 farm jobs are open as we speak,” said Hochul at a Brooklyn’s Industry City press release. “We have more than 5,000 food service jobs right now … 4,000 openings for janitors, cleaners, and housekeepers.”
Expediting work authorization for asylum seekers would allow them to work to pay rent, and buy food and basic human necessities, which would remove the stress on New York to house and feed them.
Asylum seekers must wait for the six-month delay, forcing them to rely on the state while sitting in limbo and staying in makeshift shelters such as school gyms.
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has issued a statement regarding this matter, expressing concern about using school facilities as temporary housing.
“Teachers are already doing their best for incoming children and families, but we need the city, state, and federal governments to do their jobs and come up with a coordinated plan,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “School gymnasiums cannot be the first option for sheltering newcomers. We have federal locations. We have state locations. Apparently, we have to publicly call out elected officials for them to come up with a coordinated plan and not leave the problem to educators and school communities.”
The Adams administration quickly turned to school gyms as makeshift shelters and planned to use other schools. The schools included were P721R Richard H. Hungerford School on Staten Island and P.S. 188 in Coney Island. Adams quickly shifted plans to add additional schools and moved all asylum seekers from gyms to other locations after parents and community members mobilized against the administration’s decision.
Adams emphasized the importance of allowing asylum seekers to work legally, stating, “We cannot deny them the opportunity to participate in the American dream. They come here looking for an opportunity to provide for themselves, and by refusing to grant them legal work authorization, we are creating an underground market that increases the risk of exploitation and abuse.”
He highlighted the willingness of the city’s business community to step up and hire asylum seekers, pointing out the thousands of unfilled jobs across various sectors. Industries such as hospitality, agriculture, home care, transportation, and manufacturing need labor. By granting work authorization, the federal government can address the labor shortage and asylum seekers’ aspirations to contribute to their new homes.
“America is a country of yes, not only New York City, yes to immigrants, yes to new housing jobs and opportunities, and yes to the can-do spirit that built our great nation,” Adams said.
“These asylum seekers came here looking for the American dream and a chance to work and build successful lives. Let’s give them [that] fighting chance at making this dream a reality.”