Metropolis at breaking point: Mayor: Migration issue “will destroy New York City”

Metropolis at its breaking point
Mayor: Migration issue “will destroy New York City”

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New York attracts many refugees. Accommodation costs the city twelve billion dollars every year, complains Mayor Adams. He sees a never-ending problem. So far, residents have rarely protested. Many of them even collect donations for the newcomers.

At the end of the year, the US metropolis of New York is looking back on an unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees: More than 150,000 immigrants have arrived in the city on the east coast in the past year and a half. Some weeks there were several thousand, and they came from all over the world. Now, at the beginning of winter, the city with eight million inhabitants is threatening to reach the limits of its capacity. Democratic Mayor Eric Adams recently found drastic words: “This issue will destroy New York City.”

Adams is primarily alluding to the city’s lack of accommodation and financial resources to take care of the newcomers. One of the reasons New York attracts so many people is the city’s legal obligation to provide overnight accommodations to anyone who requests it. In practice, this no longer always works, and legally the law is also repeatedly questioned, including by Adams.

Nearly 70,000 of the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from South and Central American countries such as Venezuela, have been housed by the city government in city emergency shelters, where tens of thousands of homeless people were already staying. “Let me tell you, New Yorkers: I’ve never had a problem in my life where I didn’t see the end – but I don’t see the end here,” Adams said weeks ago. Adams calculated that the new arrivals would cost the city, which is considered liberal and open, around twelve billion US dollars (around eleven billion euros) over the course of three years and declared a state of emergency in the autumn. Other observers and experts do not see an end to the influx either.

New Yorkers call immigrants “new families”

Most immigrants, including people from Africa and Asia, come over the southern border of the USA via the sometimes very dangerous overland route. From there, many get to New York – either by bus, organized by the Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, among others, or independently. It is a political tactic of Republican governors in southern states to bring migrants to Democratic-leaning parts of the country. Many migrants also want to go to New York on their own – because they have relatives or friends there, or because they know the city from films and television and expect there to be many job opportunities there.

Many of the immigrants, but by no means all, are in the United States illegally. Tens of thousands have already submitted asylum applications, but their processing can take many months. In September, the Democratic government of US President Joe Biden announced that it would grant work permits more quickly to Venezuelan immigrants so that they could support themselves more quickly – but this has not yet had the desired effect.

In New York, many immigrants work in construction, for example, without official permission. Women and children often sell candy on the subway. The “new families,” as many New Yorkers call them, have changed the cityscape in a way that is clearly visible to residents and visitors. Especially at the beginning of the cold season, concerns about the lack of accommodation in the city grow. “The colder the weather gets, the more this becomes a question of life and death,” warned the head of the homeless association Coalition for the Homeless in the New York Daily News. “This is going to be bad.”

Adams distributes leaflets at the US border

In addition to existing emergency shelters, the city administration has converted hotels or set up tent cities in parks and open spaces. Central Park, cruise ships and school gymnasiums have also been considered. In some places, residents are protesting, but overall the newcomers are receiving overwhelming support. Numerous organizations collect donations and help immigrants with information and translations.

Many children already attend public schools in the city, with more than a dozen in some classes. “Our school has had the wonderful opportunity to welcome families from Central and South America seeking asylum in our country into our school community,” a principal wrote to parents at an elementary school on Manhattan’s upscale Upper West Side.

Spanish-speaking parents helped with the acclimatization, so that some children were able to keep up with English lessons after just a few months. Mayor Adams initially welcomed the migrants, but is now openly trying to stop them from traveling to New York. He flew to Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia with appropriate messages and had leaflets distributed at the US border that more or less said: Don’t come to New York. He has now ordered that homeless migrants with children are only allowed to stay in the shelters for 60 days and single adults for 30 days. Then they have to apply for accommodation again – with uncertain success.

Scramble for money with Biden

Adams and the state’s governor, Kathy Hochul, blame US President Joe Biden’s administration for the lack of support. This in turn called into question the management of the challenge in New York. An emergency meeting in December was unsuccessful. “Help is not on the way,” Adams commented afterwards. The fact that the issue is driving wedges between party members plays into the hands of the Republicans.

Illegal immigration is also one of the dominant issues in the election campaign for the 2024 US presidential election. The Republicans, for whom former President Donald Trump, among others, is running again as a candidate, are accusing the Democratic President Biden of not taking tough enough action. The Democrats, in turn, accuse the Republicans of blocking legislative initiatives on the issue and not engaging constructively in finding solutions.

The New York example provides the Republicans with ammunition and puts additional pressure on Biden before the election. Although the state of New York, driven primarily by the metropolis of the same name, usually reliably votes for the Democratic presidential candidate – at the local level and in congressional elections, Republican candidates could also prevail on the migration issue, with consequences for Washington as well.

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