At daybreak Thursday, Mayor Eric Adams made an appearance at his new welcome center for asylum-seekers a few blocks Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, emphasizing his commitment to helping thousands of refugees newly arrived in New York City — even as he promises to roll back a universal right to shelter.
As he has since the start of the crisis, Adams, a Democrat, pointed a finger at politicians of the opposing party — alluding to without naming Florida Gov. Ron De Santis, who is reportedly flying migrants to the Massachusetts resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, as well as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has sent numerous buses to Port Authority.
“For the governor to send immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, without any coordination, is just creating a real crisis,” Adams said. “The Republican party, they have created a blueprint that all of them are starting to follow. It’s inhumane.”
But inside Port Authority, migrants are arriving in large numbers who have nothing to do with governors, or Republicans.
The City of El Paso, Texas, a Democratic-majority city struggling to cope with the wave of migrants crossing the border, has chartered buses to New York as well — expecting reimbursement from the government for busing the migrants, El Paso Matters reported. Also sending buses are nonprofit organizations and churches seeking beds for migrants.
And through word of mouth, some immigrants are simply coming to New York City on their own, drawn by the global allure of Times Square and Lady Liberty. Asylum seekers interviewed by THE CITY speak of wanting to come to New York because of its reputation, a place they’ve seen in movies with opportunities to succeed.
They also talk about coming to the city because they heard that they would receive shelter and could find work.
Franklin, who asked to be identified by his first name, flew into the city with his 9-year-old son with tickets provided by a Catholic organization in San Antonio, after trekking from Venezuela. He said that when he decided to come to the United States, he knew he’d try to make it in New York.
“Since I was a kid, I always dreamt of New York,” he said.
While migrants continue to come on Abbott’s chartered buses, others are making their way to the city on free flights covered by churches and nonprofit groups. A mutual aid volunteer who goes by the name Mariposa has been helping asylum seeking families for months.
“in July was when I first started speaking to people. They were like, ‘do you think that the border is ever going to be closed? Because if it’s not there’s hundreds and 1000s of people behind me,’” Mariposa said.
She said she’s been meeting people who arrive at the airports as well — a phenomenon Adams claimed ignorance of Thursday.
“We have not received any communications thus far that individuals are landing at Kennedy Airport or LaGuardia Airport,” Adams told THE CITY Thursday. “And if that happens, we would pivot and shift to that location.”
Others come by bus.
Jesus Veliz came to the city last week after what he described as an unsuccessful eight months in Miami, where he struggled to find a job and said he was almost violated while staying in a shelter. The Venezuelan came to New York City to stay with a friend, and hopes he’ll find a job here and plans to hire an attorney here to help him with his asylum case.
“I think things will go well here. I think New York is better,” he said in Spanish a week later, while still searching for a job.
Veliz arrived in New York City after obtaining a free bus ticket from a church in Miami. When he came to Port Authority, he and five other migrants on his bus had no clue that in the north wing of the bus terminal, the city had set up a makeshift welcome center for migrants, where those disembarking from Texas-to-New York buses can obtain aid, clothes and guidance on their new lives in the United States.
He’s living in Midwood, Brooklyn with a woman he knows from Venezuela. Others are turning to the city’s overflowing shelter system, where dozens of men reportedly slept on floors and benches at Manhattan’s intake center on a recent night because of a lack of beds.
‘Nearing a Breaking Point’
Adams said in a statement Wednesday that the system is “nearing a breaking point,” estimating more than 11,000 migrants have entered the city’s shelter system — more than 8,000 of whom are currently still in shelters.
Adams has also said the city might need to reassess its right to shelter mandate, which guarantees a bed for any adult who needs one, regardless of immigration status. Families qualify for shelter if they can prove they have nowhere else to go.
The right to shelter is secured through court settlements in lawsuits filed by advocates, and can’t be unilaterally changed by the city. The city has opened 23 emergency shelters for migrants so far, the mayor said during Thursday’s tour of the welcome center, and the cost to house them could reach hundreds of millions of dollars — leading the city’s budget director to even cite shelter costs in a recent letter demanding budget cutbacks across all city agencies
Adams’ new Asylum Seeker Resource Navigation Center is housed inside an American Red Cross center on West 49th Street, a few blocks from Port Authority.
There, migrants can access legal support, help with registering for health care, and enrolling children in school, in addition to other services, according to Manuel Castro, the commissioner of the Department of Immigrant Affairs. He said the city will be expanding to another floor.
“This is one of many places asylum seekers are receiving assistance upon arrival to New York City,” Castro said during the tour. “Nowhere in the nation is this happening.”
Adams has also called for more help from the federal government, saying Thursday, “We communicated with the White House two days ago to talk about the things that we need here. And we’re going to continue to pursue the additional funding.”
The charity Masbia Relief has been joining the city at the site in Port Authority, providing shoes to incoming migrants. Executive Director Alexander Rapaport said buses arrive every day now, including some sent by El Paso and San Antonio — cities whose mayors are not Republicans.
He said that in order to help the migrants, other cities and states have to pitch in because it’s not sustainable for New York City to keep going at it like this.
“There needs to be a national response to it,” he said. “It is not supposed to be New York alone or Texas alone.”