After experiencing a surge in asylum seekers, New York City Mayor Eric Adams asked Justice Deborah Kaplan of the New York County Supreme Court to alter the city’s 39-year-old “right to shelter” law.
Following a court order in 1984, the “Callahan consent decree,” New York City has been required to provide shelter and board to all homeless people who apply for it, provided that the applicant qualifies for the city’s home relief program or is in need of shelter due to physical, mental or social dysfunction.
Mayor Adams seeks to amend the 1984 court order to allow the city to suspend its “right to shelter” obligation when it “lacks the resources and capacity to establish and maintain sufficient shelter sites, staffing, and security to provide safe and appropriate shelter.”
Currently, New York is providing shelter for over 93,000 asylum seekers and homeless individuals.
By May 15, more than 65,000 asylum seekers had arrived in the city, resulting in a crisis Adams blames on national policy failures and “out-of-State actors seeking to score political points” by busing migrants from the southern border to New York.
“New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border. Being dishonest about that will only result in our system collapsing,” Adams said in a statement Tuesday.
“When the original Callahan consent decree came down almost 40 years ago, no one could have contemplated, foresaw, or even remotely imagined a mass influx of individuals entering our system,” Adams said.
During his campaign for Mayor, Adams said that New York would remain a “sanctuary city” under his administration.
After 5,800 asylum seekers arrived in New York during last week alone, Adams called for expedited work authorization for migrants in the city.
“We have one message, let them work. That is our clear message that we are sending,” Adams said Monday. “We must expedite work authorization for asylum seekers, not in the future, but now.”
On May 11 the Maine Wire reported on a memo sent early in 2023 by the Biden Administration to Portland, Maine entitled “Migrant Busing Toolkit for Receiving Cities.”
Cities in southern Maine are faced with a humanitarian crisis not unlike that faced by New York City, caused by an overwhelming number of asylum seekers pouring into their cities and stretching resources to the limit.
Just like in New York City, small Maine towns like Sanford have experienced a large number of asylum seekers getting chartered flights and buses from the southern border to be dumped on their doorstep without housing, food or water.
While Biden’s memo provides guidance to municipal leaders on how to deal with migrants being bused into their city, it severely miscalculates the scope of the crisis faced by small municipalities flooded with hundreds of asylum seekers without warning.
The memo directs city officials to house migrants for 1-3 days in temporary shelters, and then to look for longer-term housing options.
This advice will not work in southern Maine cities like Sanford or Portland where available housing options just simply do not exist, and housing arrangements in shelters, hotels and motels are already at capacity.