New York Pushes to Suspend ‘Right to Shelter’ Law Amid Illegal Immigration Crisis

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
October 4, 2023New York
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New York City officials are pressing ahead with a landmark effort to suspend the Big Apple’s right-to-shelter law that they blame for hampering their response to the illegal immigration crisis gripping the city and straining its resources.

City attorneys filed a letter with the New York Supreme Court on Oct. 3, asking justices to modify a so-called consent judgment that brought to life the city’s decades-old right-to-shelter mandate.

The mandate—described in the letter as “onerous” and “demonstrably ill-suited to present circumstances”—was established to help address New York City’s homeless crisis. It basically requires the city to provide a bed to anyone who asks for one.

City officials have long said the law has been making it harder to deal with the massive influx of illegal immigrants, in part by encouraging them to come to the Big Apple, the only city in the United States with this type of right-to-shelter requirement.

At the start of the crisis, New York City Mayor Eric Adams heralded the shelter mandate as a display of the city’s empathy toward asylum seekers. But his rhetoric has hardened in the months since, as the city has spent more than a billion dollars to rent space in hotels and erect more than 210 emergency processing sites and shelters.

“I don’t believe the right to shelter applies to a migrant crisis,” Mr. Adams said during an appearance on WABC’s “Sid & Friends in the Morning” at the end of September.

“With more than 122,700 asylum seekers having come through our intake system since the spring of 2022, and projected costs of over $12 billion for three years, it is abundantly clear that the status quo cannot continue,” Mr. Adams said in an Oct. 3 statement, in which he argued that the right-to-shelter requirement was never meant to apply to the extraordinary circumstances facing the city amid the influx of illegal immigrants.

So far, New York City has spent more than $2 billion dealing with the influx, and Mr. Adams said he expects that to climb to $5 billion by the end of the fiscal year. He added that more than 10,000 asylum seekers arrive each month and New York City is struggling under the burden.

NTD Photo
Illegal immigrants camp outside of the Roosevelt Hotel, which has been made into a reception center in New York City on Aug. 1, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

More Details

In the letter to New York Supreme Court Justice Erika Edwards, New York City assistant corporation counsel Daniel Perez wrote that “the Consent Judgment—entered over 40 years ago under far different circumstances—has become outmoded and cumbersome in the face of the present migrant crisis.”

He clarified that the city isn’t looking to abolish it entirely—only to suspend portions of it for the duration of states of emergency, such as the one currently facing the city.

“The explosive pace of new entrants into the City’s care shows no signs of abating,” Mr. Perez wrote, adding that the “historic, sustained and indeterminate expansion” of the city’s shelter population has created “enormous strain.”

Specifically, the mayor’s office is seeking a modification to the right-to-shelter mandate in a way that relieves the city of various obligations imposed by the consent judgment if two conditions are met.

The first condition is that the mayor has declared a state of emergency; the second is basically that the number of single adults seeking shelter is at least 50 percent greater than before the state of emergency was declared.

“The proposed modification of the Consent Judgment and resulting temporary suspension of the Consent Judgment’s obligations will not relieve the City of the significant shelter requirements under State law,” Mr. Perez wrote.

“The City will simply have the same obligations as all other jurisdictions throughout New York State. And the City will have significantly more flexibility in response to the present crisis.”

Homeless advocacy groups have come out in vocal opposition to the proposed suspension.

“This is the City’s most significant and damaging attempt to retreat on its legal and moral obligation to provide safe and decent shelter for people without homes since that right was established 42 years ago and, needless to say, street homelessness would balloon to a level unseen in our city since the Great Depression,” a joint statement from The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless reads.

Mr. Adams’s office has been pushing to suspend the mandate since the end of May, when the mayor said the city’s shelter system was “buckling” under the strain of illegal immigrants. “We want to prevent it from collapsing,” he said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who announced on Sept. 25 that she’s calling in the National Guard to help with the illegal immigration crisis, has backed Mr. Adams’s call to suspend the mandate, calling it “the right thing to do.”

National Guard Called In

At a press conference in New York City, Ms. Hochul said that she had ordered 150 members of the National Guard to support case management operations meant to get asylum seekers work permits and clear out some of the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants crowding the city’s shelters—which she said are filled to the brim.

The additional 150 National Guard members will bring the total to 2,200 who are supporting efforts to deal with the crisis.

NTD Photo
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul gives a speech in New York on Jan. 31, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Ms. Hochul praised federal moves to allow more asylum seekers to file for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which will allow them to be protected from deportation—and to work legally.

She said that there are about 400,000 job openings of various kinds in New York state and not enough people to fill them and that expedited work permits would help both the asylum seekers and local businesses.

The Biden administration announced on Sept. 20 that it will allow nearly half a million Venezuelans already in the United States—including those who illegally entered the country—to file for TPS.

Ms. Hochul said that of the 2,200 National Guard members supporting the mission of dealing with the migrant crisis, 250 would focus solely on case management to help the Venezuelans apply for TPS and legally find jobs.

“It’s very labor intensive,” she said of the case management process that the National Guardsmen will be assisting with.

Work authorization is asylum seekers’ “ticket to the American dream,” Ms. Hochul said.

“So you’ll be helping them get a job, helping them support themselves, helping them leave these shelters—because I believe they did not come all these thousands of miles to live in a shelter with hundreds, if not thousands of others,” she said.

She called for an expansion of the TPS program to allow more asylum seekers to get jobs as one of the key solutions to fixing the problem of illegal immigration.

“That would be the game-changer we need for this crisis,” Ms. Hochul said, noting that another part of the solution is more border controls to “stop the illegal flows” of people across the border.

NTD Photo
Illegal immigrants climb a section of the U.S.–Mexico border fence in Tijuana, Mexico, on April 29, 2018. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Earlier, Ms. Hochul said New York City’s shelters are full amid the relentless influx of illegal immigrants and that people should “go somewhere else.”

“They’re coming from all over,” she told CNN in an interview on Sept. 20. “But we have to let the word out that when you come to New York, we’re not going to have more hotel rooms. We don’t have capacity.”

From The Epoch Times

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