New York Begins a New Wave of Evictions From Migrant Shelters

New York City will begin a new push to evict migrants from its shelter system on Wednesday as the city enters a more aggressive phase in its effort to ease the strain that the migrant crisis has placed on the city’s budget and shelters.

The first wave of evictions will affect adult migrants who were given 30-day notices a month ago as part of the city’s push to enforce stricter time limits on shelter stays. Adult migrants who wish to stay longer can receive an extension if the city determines they meet one of several exceptions.

The new policy, which goes into effect on a rolling basis, will initially apply to about 250 migrants this week, though it remains unclear how many of those people will be kicked out and how many will be granted extensions. As the rules are phased in, they will eventually cover all 15,000 adult migrants that the city is paying to house in an array of hotels, tent dormitories and other buildings.

The administration of Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, is betting that the threat of evictions will incentivize migrants to find other housing arrangements and help reduce the overall shelter population of 65,000, most of whom are families with children. Officials are also seeking to make space for the hundreds of migrants still arriving from the southern border each week.

“I don’t know when the crisis is going to be over,” Anne Williams-Isom, the deputy mayor leading the city’s migrant response, said on Tuesday. “We are trying to exit people out of the system so that we can have some stability and then set up something that is more permanent.”

But the looming evictions have raised concerns among migrants, legal service providers and advocates for the homeless, who fear that the policy will simply force migrants into homelessness. They argue that one or two months is not enough time for recently arrived migrants — many of them impoverished and without a network of support in the United States — to secure steady income and find a more permanent place to stay, especially in an unaffordable city.

Deborah Berkman, a project director at the New York Legal Assistance Group, said that “it seems extremely likely that we will see an increase in street homelessness.”

“It is hard for me to understand how within the first 30 days someone’s in the country, they’re going to be able to find work,” she said during a panel discussion on the migrant crisis earlier this month. “Maybe some of them will be able to find some place to stay, but it’s very likely that some of them will not.”

The city is obligated to house migrants under a 1981 legal agreement that settled a class-action lawsuit brought by homeless men. The agreement led New York to become the only city with a so-called right-to-shelter requirement — a provision that has obligated the city to provide shelter for anyone who asks for it, including the nearly 200,000 migrants who have arrived from Africa, Latin America and beyond since early 2022.

But in mid-March, after months of legal wrangling, the city managed to alter the right-to-shelter rule, arguing that the original legal agreement never foresaw a situation like the migrant crisis. Those alterations, which were approved by a judge, allowed the city to impose the new time limits that go into effect this week.

Under the city’s previous rules, adult migrants could stay in shelters for 30 days, after which they could simply reapply and receive a bed for another 30 days, no questions asked. That has allowed a number of migrants to languish in the shelter system for months, sometimes for more than a year, reapplying for a bed indefinitely.

Under the new rules, single adult migrants and adult families without children can stay for only 30 days. Younger adult migrants ages 18 to 23 would have 60 days before having to move out. But all migrant adults can receive an extension if they can demonstrate to city officials that they have “extenuating circumstances”:

  • They signed the lease for an apartment, with plans to move within 30 days;

  • they plan to leave the city within 30 days;

  • they have an immigration hearing scheduled within 30 days;

  • they have a serious medical procedure within 30 days, or are recovering from a serious surgery;

  • or they are between 18 and 20 years old and are enrolled in high school.

They can also receive an extension if they can show documentation to city officials that they are making “significant efforts” to leave the shelter system, but need more time to do so. Those “significant efforts,” which the city will consider on a case-by-case basis, may include:

  • meeting with legal providers or city case workers, and applying for asylum;

  • searching for or securing a job, obtaining a government I.D., applying for public benefits;

  • taking English classes, or enrolling in university or job training.

On Friday, city officials said that of the 250 migrant adults who face evictions this week, 29 applied for an extension. Fourteen received extensions, while 15 were denied and are expected to leave the shelter system.

The new rules do not apply to the thousands of migrant families with children, who can stay in shelters for up to 60 days and can reapply and receive another shelter assignment when their time is up with no restrictions.

Talk of the new rules had reached some of the migrants who gathered outside the East Village school that the city is using as a processing center for adult migrants applying and reapplying for shelter. Some said they had only just heard about the rule changes and were trying to separate fact from rumor. Others said that city officials were beginning to urge them to keep documentation.

Most, however, were vexed by how they were supposed to show the city that they were searching for jobs when they were not legally allowed to work because of their immigration status.

“If the state were to give us work permits, the shelters wouldn’t exist,” Mohamed Lamine Cissé, 38, from Guinea, said in French. “If they give us work permits, we’ll take care of ourselves; that’s all that can solve this problem.”

Nearby, Angel Urbina, 29, a migrant from Venezuela who has reapplied for shelter three times since arriving in December, had just been told by city officials that he had a week to show he met the exceptions to extend his stay, or risk being kicked out on May 28. Mr. Urbina, who has a long scar along his right shin after injuring his leg in a construction accident years ago in Venezuela, said he was hopeful he would get an extension because of his injury, which needs surgery.

“If in the next eight days I don’t bring a doctor’s note, I can’t stay in the shelter,” Mr. Urbina, who has been working in construction twice a week and has applied for asylum, said in Spanish. “I need to bring my proof.”

Olivia Bensimon contributed reporting.

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