Mayor Eric Adams reiterated his plea for federal government action to help New York City respond to an influx of asylum-seeking migrants, emphasizing that the estimated $4.3 billion cost of maintaining tens of thousands of asylum seekers is draining city resources. 

Adams implored President Joe Biden to expedite work permits, redesignate Temporary Protected Status to migrants from nations including Venezuela, Honduras and Sudan, and increase the number of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers to help reduce asylum application times.

Flanked by city agency heads including Budget Director Jacques Jiha, Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol, and Manuel Castro, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the mayor said local government services are suffering as the city scrambles to support over 50,000 migrants who have entered the city since last summer. 

“This is one of the largest humanitarian crises that this city has ever experienced. It will impact every service in the city,” Adams said. “Why isn’t every elected official in Washington D.C. asking the national government, ‘Why are you doing this to New York?’ The national government has turned its back on New York City.”

The city is also waiting on state leaders to step forward with anticipated aid. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie each have proposed an aid package of roughly $1 billion in the overdue state budget, which was supposed to be finalized by April 1. 

Meanwhile, Adams has called for most city agencies to slash their budgets by 4% for the upcoming fiscal year. 

“The question still lingers, what are they waiting for?” the mayor said of leaders in Albany and Washington. “What do they want to happen in this city before [they] finally resolve that this issue is undermining New York City, if not the entire state?”

“FEMA is also providing assistance to support the city as it receives migrants and will announce additional funding for receiving cities like New York City in the coming weeks, but we need Congress to provide the funds and resources we’ve requested to fix our long-broken immigration system,” a White House official said in a statement to THE CITY.

The statement references an $800 million federal aid package for the crisis, of which New York is expected to receive a significant share of the money. 

Mayor Eric Adams called on the federal government to provide Temporary Protected Status to migrants entering the city so they could obtain work permits, April 19, 2023. Credit: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

U.S. Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, joined by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, held a separate press conference on Wednesday in Washington, urging the federal government to provide further aid to the city.

Adams first highlighted the influx of migrants to New York City last July, noting that they were overwhelming the capacity of the city-sponsored homeless shelter system. Since then, migrants who have entered the country through the southern border have made their way to the city through buses — some chartered by the governor of Texas — or other means. 

Adams has raised questions about whether the city’s right-to-shelter mandate, which requires the city to provide a bed to everyone who needs one, extends to the asylum seekers. Nonetheless, the city has opened more than 100 emergency shelters to house migrants. Through the Health + Hospitals Corporation, the city has bypassed standard oversight as it strikes deals to rent out hotels and rename them Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.

Appointments for New York City’s federal immigration court currently stretch into March 2033, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) said during a congressional hearing. 

Adams noted that his administration expects a resurgence of newly arrived migrants once pandemic border restrictions known as Title 42 expire with the end of the federal COVID emergency on May 11.

Theodore Moore, vice president of policy and programs for New York Immigration Coalition, told THE CITY that migrants are impeded from working by the current protracted process for securing work authorizations, with asylum seekers having to wait 180 days after filing their cases before qualifying for a work permit.

Still, Moore said, Adams could be doing more — including by providing attorneys and housing vouchers.  

Moore said that even if he agrees the city needs federal help, that shouldn’t “allow the city to skirt their responsibilities to asylum seekers here. We think that the city can still be doing more to help asylum seekers.”

Jiha pointed at placards highlighting what the city expects to spend in the fiscal year that begins in July. At $320 a day for an estimated 25,000 families, projections call for $2.9 billion for the next fiscal year. That’s in addition to $1.4 billion projected to be spent in the current fiscal year.

“You can imagine a year ago, we didn’t have this in our budget, and all of a sudden we have to come up with $4.3 billion,” Jiha said, noting the city could expect $1 billion from the state plus FEMA funds.

“But the city has to, at a minimum, come up with $3 billion. This is a huge burden,” he added.