Asylum seeker dies by suicide; New York City looks at innovative ways to house migrants

Adams says things wouldn't be this dire had the city been given the chance to coordinate and communicate with the Texas governor.

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Monday, September 19, 2022
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More buses of asylum seekers from El Paso, Texas, arrived in New York City Monday, this as Mayor Eric Adams is calling for better coordination. Crystal Cranmore has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- More buses of asylum seekers from El Paso, Texas, arrived in New York City Monday, this as Mayor Eric Adams is calling for better coordination.

Officials also revealed that one migrant died by suicide in a New York City shelter Sunday, as officials look for innovative ways to house them, including the possibility of using cruise ships.

One woman spoke with Eyewitness News as she got off a bus arriving from El Paso at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, describing her journey as difficult and dangerous.

She made it to El Paso and became one of more than 1,000 migrants there to be bused to New York City, though she said grown children are still in Texas.

El Paso is now hiring its own charter buses for these journeys, and as someone who worked in El Paso, Eyewitness News reporter Janice Yu said she has covered immigration for years.

But what is happening now is something she has not seen before.

Mayor Adams has said the city's shelter system is at its breaking point, with at least 11,000 migrants arriving since the summer.

He said things wouldn't be this dire had the city been given the chance to coordinate and communicate with Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said that in the past, the majority of migrants who came to the US had a sponsor -- a family member or friend already in the US who could help with things like transportation.

But that is not the case right now, so he said El Paso is sending asylum seekers to cities where they want to go -- and many of them have said New York.

Mayor Adams says New York City will continue to be a sanctuary city, but he wants migrants to come willingly and in a humane manner.

"We want to continue what we've always done, and that is ensure that people who came to this city were treated in a humane fashion," Adams said. "We're not seeing that now. This humanitarian crisis was created by human hands, and I believe it was a political ploy."

Housing asylum seekers on cruise ships is being explored, with the administration speaking with Norwegian Cruise Line about possibly using one of their ships.

The administration said no decisions have been made.

"There are no details to share at this time," a spokesperson said. "We said last week that we need to reassess the whole situation and are discussing different ideas to see if they work are part of that. If and when there are decisions made, we will make sure to keep you posted."

Advocates released a statement against the proposition of using cruise ships.

"Cruise ships are not designed to provide shelter and services to homeless people, especially those with disabilities, and they will likely be docked in locations that would impede critical access to jobs, health care, schools, child care, community-based services, and much more," the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless said in the joint statement. "They also raise potential public health issues with respect to coronavirus transmission. This administration must focus on transitioning New Yorkers, especially those who have languished at local shelters for long periods of time, out of shelters and into permanent housing. As we have shared with the city, a solution that we have proposed is eliminating bureaucratic red tape and broadening access to local housing vouchers, including CityFHEPS. Helping people move to permanent housing more quickly would bolster shelter capacity across the board so the City can accommodate new entrants to the system. The city has assured us that any new shelters would comply with all applicable rules and court orders, and we look forward to reviewing a plan to ensure that this remains the case with any new sites that come online, including potential cruise ships."

Sadly, Adams said Monday that an asylum seeker died by suicide in a shelter over the weekend.

"The thousands of asylum seekers we have seen arrive in our city came to this country seeking a better life," Adams said. "Sadly though, yesterday, an asylum seeker in one of our facilities took her own life. Our hearts break for this young woman and any loved ones she may have, and we, as a city mourn her."

The mayor did not name the individual or the shelter and said the city is prohibited by law from sharing additional details at this time. It is unclear how and when the woman arrived in New York City or how long she had been at the shelter.

"This tragedy is a reminder that we have an obligation to do everything in our power to help those in need," Adams said. "Among other services available at the Asylum Seeker Resource Navigation Center is mental health care. I encourage all asylum seekers who need mental health support to utilize these services, and anyone in our city struggling with anxiety, depression, or mental health challenges of any kind to call 888-NYC-WELL. We are here for you."

The New York Immigration Coalition also released a statement on the migrant's death.

"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of this young asylum seeker, just as she was reaching the safety she clearly desired in the U.S." Executive Director Murad Awawdeh said. "While we do not know the details surrounding this woman's life or death, we do know that it is often an arduous and dangerous journey to the border and then to be herded onto buses from Texas to New York City puts a strain on people's physical and mental well-being. As we await more information on the unfortunate and horrifying incident, we urge our federal, state, and local leaders to ensure that everyone, regardless of where they come from, have the support they need to thrive. People should not be used as political pawns in any circumstances and for that, Governor Abbot should be ashamed. Now is the time that we demand more from all levels of government to ensure the health and safety of every New Yorker - whether they are newcomers or not. September is Suicide Awareness month and anyone struggling to with mental health issues in NYC should contact: 1-888-NYC-WELL or Text 'WELL' to 65173 Outside of NYC - call 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline."

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 741-741 or visit 988lifeline.org/ for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

ALSO READ | Tracing the steps of asylum seekers as they settle in New York City

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