Calls for federal action as asylum seekers wait in line outside Roosevelt Hotel

Janice Yu Image
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
NYC officials call for federal action to aid with influx of migrants
The line of asylum seekers outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown has gotten shorter, but officials are calling on the federal government for help. CeFaan Kim has the latest.

MIDTOWN (WABC) -- The line of asylum seekers outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan has gotten shorter, but city officials are now calling on the federal government for help.

The city has to provide shelter to anyone who requests it and the Legal Aid Society is threatening to file litigation to enforce the law, since it looks like the city is failing to meet its obligation in a timely manner if people are sleeping on the streets.

"The federal government could also solve the problem tomorrow by allowing people to work," Joshua Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society said.

The hotel has a dual purpose -- it is an arrival center for migrants where they can get access to vaccines, food and other resources -- but it is also a humanitarian relief center that is housing families with children.

Most of the people in line on Tuesday and over the last several days have been single men. They have been waiting in line to register for shelter on sidewalks winding around the hotel's block at 46th and Vanderbilt.

"They don't allow them to go anywhere, no shower, no bathroom," one person said.

Mayor Eric Adams' office says scenes like this could be more common as the city continues to grapple with the number of migrants who are here and continue to arrive. He warned the strain on the city will only get worse.

The mayor's office says the city is currently caring for 50,000 migrants but more than 93,000 asylum seekers have come through the city's intake system since last spring. The city continues to fill up its emergency shelters and the federal funding won't cover the $4 billion the city is expected to spend by next year.

And the mayor says the White House has yet to speed up the work permit authorization process -- a move that could help alleviate the migrants' reliance on city resources.

"If I could get work authorization, this would be a substantial game changer for us," Adams said. "Because we have a lot of jobs that need to be filled, we could take people out of the shadows of the black market."

Migrants say the journey has been exhausting and this situation is not ideal, but they're ready to start their new lives.

"Obviously we want to work, we just need permission to work," one man said.

Staff members at the center in the hotel run by NYC Health + Hospitals are distributing some food and water, but an asylum seeker from Senegal said through a translator the dayslong wait has been tough -- mostly because of the uncertainty.

Another man said he just feels privileged to be in New York and just wants to get on his feet -- but that means being able to work legally, something Mayor Adams continues to push the federal government to expedite.

"There's nothing more anti-American than you can't work," Adams said.

The mayor says he's had some very productive conversations with the city's congressional delegation and Homeland Security but the federal help still isn't adequate. He says the federal government needs to treat it as the national crisis that it is and declare a state of emergency.

Officials are encouraging migrants to take placements outside the city once they become available.

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