NY Immigration Coalition says no to city’s plans for Caribbean asylum seekers

New York City Mayor Eric Adams

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) has denounced a plan by New York City to open Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers to support hundreds of asylum seekers, including Caribbean nationals, primarily Haitians, who are arriving in the city daily from Texas and other border states.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced last Monday that his administration will set up the city’s first Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center for asylum seekers on Randalls Island in Manhattan and would accommodate at least 500 asylum seekers.

But NYIC, an umbrella policy and advocacy organization representing over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York, rejected the plan as “poorly conceived.

“Mayor Adams continues to try to subvert New York’s right-to-shelter law with his poorly-conceived plan to hide asylum seekers in relief camps in remote areas of New York that are prone to flooding,” said NYIC’s Executive Director Murad Awawdeh in an interview.

“Despite the availability of underutilized buildings that are more accessible to mass transit and the social service needs of asylum seekers, the city continues to remain stubbornly committed to the development of relief camps across the five boroughs.

“Health, housing and immigrant rights organizations have repeatedly asked the city to be included in the planning to ensure that the needs of these vulnerable communities are integrated into the mayor’s proposal, but keep getting rebuffed,” he said.

NYIC’s Executive Director Murad Awawdeh

Awawdeh said without a real permanent solution to the shelter crisis, these encampments will become a stain on New York’s reputation as a welcoming city, and do nothing more than cause more harm to asylum seekers who have already been treated like pawns in a political game.

But Adams noted that “New York City has, on its own, safely and efficiently provided shelter, health care, education, and a host of other services to more than 16,000 asylum seekers pursuing a better life over the last few months.

“As we now work to open the city’s first Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center, safety for those seeking asylum remains our top priority. Following this weekend’s storms, New York City Emergency Management determined that, while we would be able to put in place the necessary ponding mitigation measures, relocating the Orchard Beach humanitarian relief center to Randall’s Island is the most efficient and effective path forward, and work is underway to make this move.”

New York City Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, said while Orchard Beach was a “particularly poor location for a tent shelter given its history of flooding and other factors, a tent shelter anywhere in this city cannot be used to circumvent the right-to-shelter mandate.

The mayor said humanitarian relief centers will become the first touch point for arriving asylum seekers, helping people by immediately offering shelter, food, medical care, casework services, and a range of settlement options, including through connections to family and friends inside and outside of New York City.