NYC continues to report spike in migrant arrivals despite post-Title 42 drop in southern border crossings

·5 min read

NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has since last week reported a steady increase in migrant arrivals — even as volunteers welcoming the desperate travelers to New York City say they’re not seeing a massive influx amid a drop in U.S. southern border crossings.

Molly Schaeffer, Adams’ director of asylum-seekers operations, said in a private phone briefing Thursday with local lawmakers that more than 900 migrants arrived this past Monday alone, according to a recording of the call obtained by the New York Daily News. That came on top of roughly 4,300 migrants Schaeffer said arrived last week.

But volunteers who have spent months greeting migrants at the city’s ports of entry say the administration’s numbers don’t jibe with what they’re seeing on the ground.

Power Malu, founder of a group called Artists-Athletes-Activists that has been posted at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and local airports since migrants first started arriving last spring, said Friday that his team keeps a daily log on arrivals of asylum-seekers.

Malu said his team on Monday welcomed a total of two buses with migrants at Port Authority. The first bus carried 41 migrants, and the second bus had 46 said Maul. His team is part of a network of advocacy groups that help connect migrants with housing and services.

In addition to Port Authority, LaGuardia Airport has become a major hub for new arrivals in recent weeks. Malu said he was at LaGuardia on Monday and welcomed about 100 asylum-seekers.

“They are exaggerating,” said Malu, whose group relies on donations and does not receive city funding.

Adams spokesman Fabien Levy disputed Malu’s claims and said the administration saw more than 950 migrants enter the city Monday.

Levy said migrants aren’t just arriving at Port Authority and LaGuardia, but also via other area airports and bus stations, like the transit hubs in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Some are even coming into the city by foot, Levy claimed.

“We’ve said multiple times, people aren’t just coming on chartered buses,” Levy said.

Later Friday, Levy clarified that the city bases its daily migrant arrival tallies on “the actual number of people coming through our intake system and asking for shelter.” That being the case, Levy could not rule out that some migrants included in those tallies may not actually have arrived in the city that same day.

City shelter and emergency hotel systems are believed to be at capacity housing more than 41,000 migrants, most of them from Latin America. Adams has for months expressed frustration with President Joe Biden’s administration for not providing more financial and logistical relief to help the city tackle the migrant crisis.

As New York City continues to report increases in arrivals, the number of migrants crossing the U.S. southern border is decreasing, according to federal officials.

On Wednesday, Blas Nuñez Neto, the Department of Homeland Security’s top immigration policy official, said in a briefing with reporters that the number of entries across the U.S. southern border dropped to fewer than 4,000 per day on Monday and Tuesday. That marked a 60% drop as compared to the roughly 10,000 migrants who crossed the border daily a week earlier.

The drop followed the expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era border enforcement policy that allowed federal authorities to quickly expel migrants crossing into the U.S.

Elected officials across the country, including Adams, for months warned that the expiration of Title 42 could result in a massive surge in migrants crossing the border. Nuñez Neto said the opposite has happened because, in place of Title 42, Biden’s administration has put in new rules that make it more difficult for migrants to be eligible for asylum.

“We attribute the reduction in encounters at our border both to the consequences that we have strengthened and put in place for unlawful entry, and the lawful pathways that we have expanded,” Nuñez Neto said, referencing other Biden administration policies allowing more migrants to apply for asylum from outside the U.S.

Some of the new asylum rules are being challenged in court, and Nuñez Neto said the Biden administration remains on alert for potential future spikes in migrant crossings.

Amid the conflicting narratives about migrant arrivals in the city, Adams went on Caribbean Power Jam Radio on Friday morning to address concerns that migrants are receiving better access to shelter and social services than homeless New Yorkers.

“Don’t let anyone kid you that long-term New Yorkers can’t have access. They could go live in any of those HERRCs that the asylum-seekers are in,” Adams said, referring to his administration’s Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.

Levy, however, confirmed to the Daily News later in the day that only asylum-seekers are allowed in HERRCs. He would not say whether the mayor misspoke, but maintained the city does not “provide asylum-seekers with additional services,” adding that homeless New Yorkers can access the same type of shelter, food, health care and case work in regular shelters.

Also Friday, the Adams administration opened its long-awaited 24/7 migrant arrival center at the old Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, which is supposed to replace its operations at the Port Authority.

The Roosevelt site has attracted criticism from Malu and other volunteers who say the administration sidelined them from helping run it.

Malu said that when he showed up at Port Authority on Friday morning to welcome a migrant bus, a worker from the city Emergency Management agency told him Adams administration officials had given “strict orders” to not allow volunteers to participate in greeting the asylum-seekers.

The newly arrived migrants were then directed to board an awaiting MTA bus that took them to the Roosevelt, Malu said.

At the Roosevelt, migrants are supposed to be able to get help with seeking shelters, social services and other assistance, according to Adams officials. Hundreds of rooms at the hotel are also expected to be made available for migrant families with kids.

Levy would not say why the administration opted to not invite the volunteer groups to help at the Roosevelt, but thanked them for their work.

“We’re grateful to all of the volunteers who have stepped up throughout this crisis and appreciate their continued commitment to supporting asylum-seekers at other ports of entry across the five boroughs,” he said.