As the entire country deals with forced migrations, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has declared that the migrant crisis will “destroy New York City.” He claims that a city with the largest concentration of millionaires in the world lacks the resources to provide every migrant with adequate shelter. Shortly after making this announcement, he proposed that every New York City agency cut its budget by as much as 15% starting next year. Not all New Yorkers will be affected in the same way by the mayor’s proposed budget cuts, however. It is the multiracial working-class that will suffer the consequences of Adams’s loyalty to the elite.
As a result of the increased surge of migrants into the city, the Adams administration has taken measures to roll back New York’s constitutional “Right to Shelter,” which makes it unlawful for the administration to deny shelter to homeless people in the city. On May 23, 2023, the New York City Law Department filed an application for modification of that right.
During initial budget negotiations, Adams cited the need for increased funding to provide shelter to migrants as a pretext to slash the budgets of nearly every agency except the New York City Police Department. To account for the budget shortfall, New York’s Socialists in Office have proposed a series of tax increases. DSA member and State Senator Julia Salazar stated, “We should increase taxes because it’s economically just policy to offset the costs for our state to function. I’d say that even if our city and state hadn’t seen an increase in migrants seeking asylum, this moment makes it all the more important for the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.” Tax increases enacted in 2021 under then-Governor Andrew Cuomo are set to expire in 2027, increasing the likelihood of a budget deficit.
In May, the Adams administration claimed that it would send hundreds of single adult men to hotels in Rockland County and Orange County. In response to Adams’s move to send migrants upstate, Governor Kathy Hochul rebutted by stating that “… you cannot involuntarily take people from the city and send them all over the state of New York. Putting someone in a hotel on a dark, lonely road in upstate New York and telling them they’re supposed to survive is not compassion.” Hochul has initiated her own lawsuit against the state’s Right to Shelter law, arguing that the right only applies to New York City, not New York State. In an apparent affront to Hochul’s administration, the Attorney General of New York, Letitia James, has decided not to represent the state in this matter.
Adams has not made many allies in the federal government due to his criticism of the White House for not providing aid. Recently, however, the Biden administration announced it would allow New York City to shelter migrants on nearby federal property, including in Floyd Bennett Field.
What can we do about the “Migrant Crisis?”
Although New York City has indeed experienced a recent uptick in the amount of migrants seeking asylum, the actual number of migrants arriving is not historically unprecedented. As of September, more than 113,000 migrants have arrived in New York since spring of 2022. In 1907, Ellis Island processed more than 100,000 immigrants in a single month. Between 1996 and 2001, an average of 111,828 immigrants settled in New York per year. What’s different? The cost of housing and basic services has become significantly more expensive in just the last decade alone. According to Adams, it costs New York City $383 a night per migrant family that the city cares for.
Adams’s management of the city budget, however, has raised some eyebrows. In August of 2022, Adams announced an emergency procurement declaration, which allowed his administration to skirt normal contract approval procedures, such as requiring competing bids from vendors. As a result, the cost of basic goods and services to care for migrants has skyrocketed. For example, one of the vendors contracted for laundry services at migrant shelters charged the government $3 per pound, while the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) pays 99 cents per pound of laundry.
What else is different? A century ago, migrants could find work, albeit in jobs with very little worker protections. Today, many migrants arriving in New York are not authorized to work. As a result, migrant populations cannot sustain themselves and must rely on government services.
It is estimated that 40% of migrants arriving in New York City are Venezuelan. Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the extension and redesignation of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which will allow migrants hailing from the country to work. Some, however, have called for more systemic change, including repealing sanctions against Venezuela to address a root cause of the influx of migrants. According to the DSA International Committee, sanctions against Venezuela have cut government revenues by a staggering 99%. The blockade has eliminated “nearly all of the foreign exchange needed to import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, or transportation.”
Recently, twenty legislators in New York, including Socialists in Office, released a statement advocating for the end of vicious budget cuts and calling for the expansion of rental assistance voucher programs, such as New York City’s Family Homelessness & Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS) program, as well as a plethora of other policy measures. Moving people into permanent affordable housing is more sustainable and will reduce the burden on New York City’s shelter system. Socialists in Office have also called for the state to utilize its $13 billion “economic uncertainties” fund, which will allow the state to transfer savings from previous budget surpluses to boost funding for social services.
The multiracial working-class forms the backbone of New York City. Contrary to the mayor’s implication that the influx of migrants would “destroy” New York City, the cultural and economic fabric of the city would crumble without multiracial working-class people. Turning people away is not the solution. Under the Adams administration, New York City has divested from core social services. Instead of advocating for systemic change, the Adams administration has blown xenophobic dog whistles, gaining allies on the Right and alienating the already wary Left. As New York City fails to provide asylum-seekers with basic services, mutual aid organizers have stepped in to fill the gaps. Mutual aid groups, such as the South Bronx Mutual Aid Collective have prepared free food, donated clothing, and distributed hygiene products for new arrivals. The collective also developed a real-time app called AyudaNYC, which offers asylum-seekers assistance links to various services in several languages.
New York City DSA and Socialists in Office have offered a bold plan to support homeless people, and people all across the country should stand in solidarity with migrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families in the United States–not turn them away or treat them with contempt.