“We have already witnessed the harm that 30-day limits have inflicted on adult migrants without children, who have either had to sleep on the streets indefinitely while reapplying for housing or who have been abandoned by the system altogether,” reads a letter signed by nearly 50 city and state elected officials.
Dozens of city and state lawmakers sent a letter a Mayor Eric Adams Thursday demanding the administration end its shelter limit policy for new immigrants, calling the 30- and 60-day deadlines—which will impact the first group of homeless families with children in early January— “arbitrary and harmful.”
“We have already witnessed the harm that 30-day limits have inflicted on adult migrants without children, who have either had to sleep on the streets indefinitely while reapplying for housing or who have been abandoned by the system altogether,” reads the letter, signed by 46 elected officials, including both the city’s comptroller and public advocate.
“As elected offices working with new immigrants across New York City, we can attest to the rampant fear of being tossed onto the streets with zero resources for survival,” it continued. “At a time when many in the city are celebrating the holidays—including our City administration—this policy is particularly cruel.”
The Adams administration first instituted the shelter deadlines for certain single adult immigrants in July, saying it had run out of space to house the new arrivals, more than 150,000 of whom have come to the city since the spring of 2022.
As of Nov. 30, more than 66,000 were still in the shelter system, staying in more than 200 sites run by various city agencies. The mayor has ordered a number of cuts to city spending, citing the costs of sheltering new arrivals as a key factor.
City Hall has expanded the deadline policy in recent months, first shortening the time limit for adults from 60 to 30 days. In October, Adams announced that immigrant families with children would be issued 60-day deadlines, the first of which are scheduled to expire after the holidays.
While individuals and families can reapply for another placement in the system after their time limit is up, securing a bed has become increasingly difficult. In recent weeks, crowds of adult immigrants have lined up outside the city’s “reticketing center” in the East Village, some of them sleeping overnight in freezing temperatures, what Legal Aid Society deemed a violation of the city’s right to shelter.
“As with single adults, these families arrived in New York without winter clothing, leaving them incredibly vulnerable to the elements,” the letter from lawmakers reads. “Numerous educators and advocacy groups have warned that uprooting families every two months will have devastating consequences for children’s education and development.”
The mayor’s office did not explicitly respond to the elected officials’ demands, but referred City Limits to Adams’ comments during a press briefing Tuesday, where he defended the city’s response, saying New York has handled the arrival of immigrants “better than any municipality in this country.”
“A new city moved into our city,” the mayor said. “We absorbed children into our educational system, mental health support. Made sure that they had housing…clothing, feeding people, giving them a place to sleep.”
Just 20 percent of the adult immigrants who’ve been issued shelter deadlines have returned to the system, Adams also noted. “You know, 80 percent of those we gave the 30‑day rule went on to stabilize their lives,” the mayor said Tuesday.
But lawmakers who signed the letter disputed those numbers, saying the city has not actually tracked where those people went after exiting the system, “making it impossible to understand what has happened to these individuals and for community-based organizations to assist,” their letter reads.
In addition to ending the shelter limit policy, the letter implores the administration to take a number of other actions, including implementing an expansion of the city’s rental assistance program passed by the City Council this summer, which they say would free up space in the system by allowing more families to move into permanent housing.
It asks City Hall to “increase the casework staff” helping new immigrants find shelter and housing placements, and to stop assigning families with children to group shelter settings, like the tent complex at Floyd Bennett Field.
“The Right to Shelter requirement guarantees decency for all residents of New York, whether newly arrived or not,” the letter reads. “We want to ensure this policy is protected, while continuing to advocate for comprehensive, systemic policies in our respective legislative sessions.”
Desiree Joy Frias is an organizer with South Bronx Mutual Aid, which has been aiding new immigrant arrivals over the last several months with the limited donations the group has received: delivering hot drinks and food to those lined up outside the re-ticketing center, offering rides to doctor’s appointments.
“There’s a lot of people who just don’t have the basic resources that they need to survive,” she said. “This is not a comfort issue. This is not people asking to have everything handed to them. They will not survive this winter without a coat, without shoes, without basic living necessities.”
Read the lawmakers’ letter below.