The country’s asylum seeker crisis — exacerbated by a concerted effort of politicized policies of Texas and Florida governors and the expiration of Title 42 — is a major issue for New York City.
Mayor Eric Adams has come up with a makeshift solution that may hold off an inevitable wave of immigrants who crossed the border over the past two weeks and have been transported to the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states. But not for long.
Title 42 refers to an emergency law passed in 1944. It allows federal health authorities to prohibit migrants from entering the country to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invoked Title 42 — with heavy influence from the Trump administration — at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020. This allowed border patrol agents to swiftly expel migrants without approval or oversight. But that ended on May 11.
In New York’s case, we are facing a dilemma not seen in decades: finding temporary shelters for more than 65,000 migrants seeking asylum. In fact, the city is on pace to spend more than $4 billion over fiscal 2023 and 2024 to scale up shelter and services.
We are starting to see that in greater Riverdale. The Van Cortlandt Motel, which has been closed for some time, is being reopened as one of those shelters. It can accommodate nearly 200 migrants. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, such motels were no longer used for temporary homeless shelters.
Under an emergency plan, which includes suspending the right to shelter law, Adams is opening 130 emergency shelters. Most are in commercial hotels and motels, and some are in seven public school gymnasiums.
With rampant NIMBYism seen throughout the city — especially in greater Riverdale — the Adams administration has tried to keep the locations of the shelters secret from the public. They have hired outside security firms to protect said shelters from anybody even peering into the now-opened motels and hotels, sometimes threatening to call the police.
Such policy flies in the face of the usually drawn-out process for homeless shelters, such as the one proposed for 6661 Broadway. That is not too far from the Van Cortlandt Motel at 6393 Broadway in North Riverdale.
This chaotic approach is causing consternation by neighbors who live near the motel and other emergency shelters. It has led to a fear that Broadway will become a dangerous place full of people wandering the streets in search of food and work. That is in addition to the overflow of residents from the nearby W assisted living facility (formerly the Riverdale Manor).
Adams’ plan also calls for sending more migrants to the counties of Westchester, Orange and Rockland. Only Westchester has publicly said it would welcome them. Orange and Rockland, however, have declared emergencies to invoke orders not to take the migrants.
Most of this issue has come about because of the political actions of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who have paid to send busloads of migrants to Washington, New York and the home of Vice President Kamala Harris. Such mean-spirited actions meant to gain political favor among their neo-conservative followers is both illegal and wrong.
Meanwhile, all the Biden administration has done is send National Guard troops to the Mexican border to enforce the expiration of invoking Title 42. He needs to come up with a plan to properly and humanely take care of these migrants, who are more than willing to work in places where jobs are needed.
Biden needs to at least find proper long-term housing and jobs for these potential Americans instead of playing into the hands of the red state neocons like Abbott and DeSantis.