The mayor of New York City has declared a state of emergency, saying an influx of asylum seekers being bussed into the city each day from the US state of Texas is creating a “humanitarian crisis”.
Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, said during a news conference on Friday that more than 17,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since April.
He said the city expects to spend more than $1bn by the end of this fiscal year on housing, accommodation, healthcare and other assistance for the migrants, straining local resources.
“This is a humanitarian crisis that started with violence and instability in South America that is being accelerated by American political dynamics,” Adams told reporters.
“Thousands of asylum seekers have been bussed into New York City and simply dropped off without notice, coordination or care.”
The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has been bussing asylum seekers to Democratic-run cities – New York, Washington, DC, and Chicago – in order to bring attention to the growing number of migrants arriving at the United States’s southern border with Mexico.
The governor of Arizona later joined the effort, and last month, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis put 48 migrants on board two private planes to Martha’s Vineyard, a wealthy vacation island in Massachusetts.
The push has accelerated just weeks before the US midterm elections, in which migration and the situation at the border have taken centre stage.
Republican officials, who blame the administration of US President Joe Biden for the record-high number of arrivals at the border, have said the transport of migrants is necessary to share the burden of hosting asylum seekers.
But rights groups have slammed the practice as cruel and inhumane, while the White House accused Republican leaders of using vulnerable migrants as “political pawns”.
The majority of the asylum seekers have been from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua – countries that the US has been unable to expel people back to under a public health policy at the border called “Title 42”.
Under that order, the majority of the people seeking asylum at the border are quickly sent back to Mexico or to their country of origin without a chance to file a claim.
On September 9, the mayor of Washington, DC, Muriel Bowser, declared a public health emergency in response to the migrant buses coming into the city, releasing $10m in funds. Chicago, which has received fewer migrants, has set up a website for donations and volunteers.
Friday’s order in New York City directs “all relevant city agencies to coordinate their efforts to respond to the asylum seeker humanitarian crisis and construct the city’s Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers”, the city said.
Last month, Adams announced plans to open two centres to provide shelter, food and medical care, as well as a range of settlement support, to hundreds of asylum seekers arriving each day.
An average of five to six buses have been dropping people off in New York City daily, and on Thursday, nine buses arrived, the mayor said during the news conference.
He said 42 hotels had been set up as emergency shelters for the migrants and 5,000 children have been enrolled in schools. But since most of the adult migrants do not have work permits, they require long-term assistance.
“The asylum seekers coming here need more than a hot meal and a bed for the night,” Adams said.
Declaring a state of emergency, he added, would allow city officials to provide the required assistance at a faster pace.