The first evictions of migrant families with children under City Hall’s 60-day shelter policy began on Jan. 9. Since then, about 1,600 families have been forced to leave their shelters after their time expired, while another 7,200 have been given 60-day notices that will expire in the weeks to come.

Adi Talwar

Elizabeth Leon and her two children on their way to reapply for another shelter placement after their deadline expired on Jan. 9.

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Ramon Villazana’s family needed to leave the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center (HERRC) at the Holiday Inn in Lower Manhattan, where the city has housed immigrant families with children since last year, at the end of January—when their 60 day-stay expired under the Adams administration’s shelter deadline policy for newly arrived immigrants.

After losing his construction job a few weeks earlier, he considered moving to Philadelphia—where he had lived after leaving Venezuela, and before coming to the Big Apple—or keep trying in New York. And while the city offers subsidized travel out of town for immigrants in shelter who want to relocate elsewhere, he said his family decided to leave on their own because he was told at the HERRC that it would take about 10 days to get the tickets for him, his wife, and his 3-year-old daughter.

On Jan. 9, the first evictions of migrant families with children under City Hall’s broader shelter policy began, with some 40 families who were scheduled to leave that day.

In the three weeks since, some 1,600 families with kids have had to leave their shelters after their time expired, while another 7,200 families have been given 60-day notices to find alternative placement, according to data provided by City Hall.

“These numbers are alarming,” said Alexa Avilés, the new chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Immigration. “We must understand the extent of the harms done through this administration’s 30 and 60 day rules on people in the shelter system. With promised state aid from Albany and better-than-expected tax collection receipts, it is unacceptable, inhumane, and irresponsible for the City of New York to be in the business of displacing vulnerable families.”

While the mayor has noted that families with children can reapply for placement in the system after their time limit is up, dozens like Villazana’s have chosen not to do so and have left the city instead. 

The mayor’s office said they are still compiling the percentage of families who’ve been given deadlines and then reapplied to return to the system. But so far, all families with children who have done so have received another placement, the mayor’s office explained. 

Still, the shelter deadlines have prompted an outpouring of criticism, rallies, letters from councilmembers, and an investigation by the comptroller’s office, which is also collecting online feedback on the policy.

The mayor’s office said it is also still collecting data on how many families with school-age children have been relocated to shelters in a different borough from their schools. The administration said it is trying its best to keep children in the same borough, especially elementary school-aged kids. If not, the city is legally obliged to provide transportation between school and the family’s new shelter placement.  

“It’s very concerning,” said Isabella Rieke, Communications Manager for Advocates for Children. “These transfers are making it almost impossible for kids to stay in the same school.”

Additionally, the mayor’s office said about 40 immigrant families whose members have gone to the city-run “reticketing center” in the East Village have been given an out-of-town relocation ticket so far. Ramon said he did not know about this possibility.

The “reticketing center” is also the only place where adult migrants can re-apply for another placement in the system at the end of their 30-day stays, a process that’s resulted in hundreds of immigrants lining up in the cold every day, and sleeping on the floors of churches the city uses as “waiting areas.”

City Hall has maintained that the shelter limit policy for new immigrant arrivals is necessary for managing limited space—and resources—in the overwhelmed system. “We were out of room and the cost of doing this…it was a weight we could not continue to carry,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a recent press briefing.

The City Council’s most recent Asylum Seekers Terms and Conditions report lists the budgeted and estimated expenses related to responding to asylum seekers at $4.72 billion for Fiscal Year 2024. Much of the money is associated with spending by NYC Health + Hospitals and the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the latter of which operates sites where most new immigrants are housed.

For months, both Mayor Adams and Gov.Kathy Hochul have emphasized the importance of employment as a pathway out of shelters. Gov. Kathy Hochul laid out a plan this week to potentially hire immigrants in the public sector, as first reported by Bloomberg News—part of a series of initiatives launched by the state to help stabilize asylum seekers.

During his weekly press conference Tuesday, the mayor welcomed the idea of hiring new arrivals who already have work permits for entry-level government jobs. “We need to find a creative place and way that we've stated over and over again about allowing people to work,” Adams said. “Like we have a lifeguard shortage. I would love to use migrants and asylum seekers to help with the lifeguard shortage.”

While the state has launched the $25 million Migrant Relocation Assistance Program (MRAP) to resettle asylum-seeking families to other parts of New York in hopes of relieving pressure on the city's shelters, progress is moving slowly. Of the 1,250 families it aims to relocate by providing them with rental assistance and social services, it has only done so for 100 so far.

“The State should make this program work so that people can move out of shelters as soon as possible,” said Josh Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society. “Getting this program moving would be a better use of everyone’s time than having people come back to a city office at arbitrary intervals to answer questions we all know the answers to.”

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