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‘This is a real problem’: NYC Mayor Seeks to Amend ‘Right to Shelter’ Law in Face of Waves of Migrants

Published: January 3, 2024
New York City Mayor Eric Adams addresses the convened press at the Industry City warehouse complex in Brooklyn on May 22, together with New York State Governor Kathy Hochul urging federal authorities to help expedite work authorizations for migrants. (Image: Video still/Thomson Reuters)

New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, has renewed his calls to dismantle the city’s “right to shelter” law, arguing that the decades-old law no longer applies when addressing the migrant crisis gripping the city. 

The law has been in force since 1981 and requires the city to provide a sufficient number of beds to meet the needs of every homeless person in the city looking for shelter. 

Adams argues that the existing laws were never intended to force the city to provide housing for the more than 161,000 migrants who have made their way to the city since the crisis began in the spring of 2022. 

The issue is currently before the courts, and entered private mediation in October, 2023 however with no court date on public record. 

According to the NY Post, Adams said, “These people are paroled into the country that has nothing to do with it. While they here, we are obligated [to provide housing] and that’s why we’re in court saying that the right to shelter should not have an impact on this migrant crisis,” adding that, “this is a real problem.”

To date, it remains unclear exactly what the city is asking for from the court as almost all arguments have been held in closed-door sessions.


NYC preferred destination for migrants

Lawmakers suspect that NYC’s “right to shelter” laws make the city a preferred destination for migrants who illegally cross into the United States via the southern border.  

These suspicions appeared to be validated after a family of three arrived at New York’s Roosevelt hotel, with the mother telling the NY Post that her family arrived in the city via train from Boston in hopes of finding better housing. 

“They don’t really help you in Boston,” she said, adding that, “It’s more comfortable here. Better.”

The family was ultimately turned away from the hotel, with plans to travel south.

Currently, more than 200 shelters are accommodating more than 68,000 migrants in the city, the vast majority of which were bussed to the city by Texas Governor, Greg Abbott. 

Abbott recently posted to X, “Sanctuary cities like NYC & Chicago have seen only a FRACTION of what overwhelmed Texas border towns face daily. We will continue our transportation mission until Biden reverses course on his open border policies.”

Hizzoner expressed frustration with Abbott, saying recently, “The governor of Texas continues to state, ‘Well, you guys are a sanctuary city.’ That has nothing to do with this.”


Adams’ executive order to be expanded

Meanwhile, Adams wants to expand his previously issued executive order — aimed at limiting migrant buses arriving in the city — to include planes and trains.

The idea was prompted by conversations with New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, who says busloads of migrants are landing in his state, only to hop on trains and head to New York City.

Referring to Abbott again, Adams said, “We’re dealing with a person who just wants to disrupt,” adding that, “We want to send the right message to bus operators — ‘You should not participate in the actions of Governor Abbott. We’re going to use everything within our powers to make sure that there are things we could do to stop planes.”

Adams’ order, issued last week, requires bus companies to provide 32-hours notice before dropping off migrants and limits the drop off point to a single location on West 41st Street, between 8:30 a.m. and noon. 

However, bus operators quickly found a loophole in the order, dropping migrants off in New Jersey and directing them to take a train the rest of the way into New York City.

Some migrants told the NY Post that some are flying into JFK, LaGuardia or Newark airports and then hiring an Uber for a ride straight into Manhattan, also skirting Adams’ order.