Advocates accuse New York City of using migrants as ‘props’ in bid for federal money

Aug 2, 2023, 4:36 PM

Migrants sit in a queue outside of The Roosevelt Hotel that is being used by the city as temporary ...

Migrants sit in a queue outside of The Roosevelt Hotel that is being used by the city as temporary housing, Monday, July 31, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK (AP) — For days now, newly arrived international immigrants have waited night and day outside New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel, sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder on the sidewalk in hopes of a bed in the city’s shelter system. And for weeks, Mayor Eric Adams has said the city is out of room and sought to dissuade more migrants from arriving.

The scene outside the former hotel — now a migrant shelter and intake center — has underscored the extreme overcrowding in a homeless housing system filled to record levels. City officials and activists alike call it heartbreaking.

But some critics accuse New York City officials of exploiting the lines outside the Roosevelt as part of a campaign to pressure state and federal officials to come up with more money to tackle the crisis and discourage more migrants from entering the U.S. from Mexico.

“Mayor Adams should not be using asylum seekers as props to get the attention of the Biden administration or discourage asylum seekers from coming to New York,” said Murad Awawdeh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

He added the city should work harder to free up space in shelters and keep migrants off the streets. “It’s hard to imagine that there are not enough beds to actually accommodate the people that the Adams administration is leaving out on the street,” he told The Associated Press in a statement.

At a briefing Thursday, one of the mayor’s deputies pushed back.

“I don’t think I or any person in this administration would use people to do any type of a stunt,” said Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom.

She said the city has conducted itself “with humanity and with compassion,” adding the shelter system is at a “breaking point.”

City officials say the number of migrants arriving in New York since the spring of 2022 is approaching 100,000, overwhelming a shelter system designed to hold tens of thousands fewer people.

New York City has a unique court-ordered obligation to provide emergency shelter to anyone who asks for it, but officials have said in recent weeks that the influx of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. had made it increasingly difficult to fulfill that duty.

While the number of migrants crossing the border has fallen in recent months, busloads still arrive nearly every day. City officials said that some 2,300 more migrants came to the city seeking shelter last week alone.

Adams last month dispatched emissaries to the border to hand out fliers, informing migrants that shelter space in his city is no longer guaranteed and that housing and food in New York City is expensive. It urged them to consider other U.S. cities.

Outside the Roosevelt hotel recently, migrant Miguel Jaramillo talked about sleeping in the street while waiting for a bed, saying he was willing to “endure the process.”

“We came here for a future,” he said.

On another day, security guards ordered migrants not to speak to journalists. During one interview, a migrant was told by a guard to stop speaking — first putting his finger on his pursed lips then dragging it across his throat like a knife.

The migrant, who had been speaking about his arduous passage to the U.S. and his hopes for a better life, immediately stopped talking.

“That’s pretty plainly a threat,” said Joshua Goldfein, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society in New York.

“There’s no question that the city could provide additional spaces for the folks who are on the sidewalk,” he said, though he added state and federal governments should do more, too.

Adams, a Democrat, has insisted the city is doing everything it can, including leasing entire hotels for migrants and opening multiple new shelters.

In a frantic search for more housing, city officials are considering building a tent city on an island in the East River, even though it closed a similar facility nearly a year ago just weeks after it opened. And soon a new shelter will open in the parking lot of a psychiatric hospital in Queens, providing about 1,000 beds for single men, who comprise the majority of arriving migrants.

Adams’ tough rhetoric, though, has implied more migrants would find themselves sleeping outdoors.

“It’s not going to get any better. From this moment on it’s downhill. There is no more room,” he said Monday while quickly vowing he wouldn’t let sidewalk encampments become a citywide problem. “I can assure you that this city is not going to look like other cities where there are tents up and down every street.”

Goldfein and others accused the mayor and city of shifting their tone from “we’re going to treat people with dignity and respect to we’re going to treat people very badly to send a message.”

Williams-Isom, the deputy mayor, countered that the city would remain compassionate.

“We are trying to say that if less people were coming through the front door, maybe we could catch up a little bit,” she said.


Associated Press journalist Julie Walker contributed to this report.

National News

File - Graduating Harvard University students celebrate their degrees during commencement ceremonie...

Associated Press

Borrowers are reassessing their budgets as student loan payments resume after pandemic pause

NEW YORK (AP) — Millions of Americans must start repaying their federal student loans again in October, with monthly payments averaging hundreds of dollars a month. To get ready, borrowers are cutting expenses, taking on additional work, and looking for options to reduce their monthly payments. Megan McClelland, 38, said she has started asking for […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Illinois semitruck accident kills 1, injures 5 and prompts ammonia leak evacuation

TEUTOPOLIS, Ill. (AP) — A semitruck carrying ammonia overturned in an Illinois county, spilling the chemical and causing an evacuation of area residents Friday night, police said. The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office said the accident happened less than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) east of Teutopolis near an intersection of Route 40 and residents were evacuated […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

New York stunned and swamped by record-breaking rainfall as more downpours are expected

NEW YORK (AP) — One of New York’s wettest days in decades left the metropolitan area stunned and swamped Friday after heavy rainfall knocked out several subway and commuter rail lines, stranded drivers on highways, flooded basements and shuttered a terminal at LaGuardia Airport for hours. Some 8.65 inches (21.97 centimeters) of rain had fallen […]

9 hours ago

In this photo provided by the Ocean Exploration Trust, the chrysanthemum flower crest, an honored i...

Associated Press

Video provides first clear views of WWII aircraft carriers lost in the pivotal Battle of Midway

Footage from deep in the Pacific Ocean has given the first detailed look at three World War II aircraft carriers that sank in the pivotal Battle of Midway and could help solve mysteries about the days-long barrage that marked a shift in control of the Pacific theater from Japanese to U.S. forces. Remote submersibles operating […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

On the brink of a government shutdown, the Senate tries to approve funding but it’s almost too late

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is on the brink of a federal government shutdown after hard-right Republicans in Congress rejected a longshot effort to keep offices open as they fight for steep spending cuts and strict border security measures that Democrats and the White House say are too extreme. With no deal in place […]

10 hours ago

FILE - Federal prosecutor Leo Wise poses for a photograph at the U.S. Attorney's Office in downtown...

Associated Press

Prosecutor in Hunter Biden case cut a contentious path in Baltimore

BALTIMORE (AP) — Before being assigned to investigate President Joe Biden’s son, Leo Wise built a reputation in Baltimore as a tough and hard-charging federal prosecutor, taking on powerful, and seemingly untouchable, figures — whether a gang of corrupt cops, a police commissioner, a top local prosecutor and even a mayor. Wise’s backers call him […]

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Advocates accuse New York City of using migrants as ‘props’ in bid for federal money