Asylum Seeker Coordinator Proposed

Mohamed, a 19-year-old fleeing political persecution in the northwest African country of Mauritania, center, watches as car services arrive to shuttle outbound migrants away from the Crossroads Hotel, due south of New York City in Newburgh, N.Y. AP photo

As the debate over the state’s handling of asylum seekers continues, legislation has been introduced to create a new state office to help with the crisis.

Assemblywoman Jennifer Rajkumar, D-Woodhaven, has introduced A.7493 to amend the state Executive Law to establish a coordinator for asylum seeker services. The coordinator would be jointly appointed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul to implement a statewide plan for the intake and resettlement of asylum seekers.

Debate over the state’s migrant crisis has ramped up in recent weeks as Adams has sought to send migrants elsewhere throughout the state to relieve his overburdened city. The State University at Buffalo has been identified as one of three SUNY campuses statewide that could serve as a temporary shelter. The 2023-24 state budget includes $1 billion to assist with the migrant crisis, but Rakjumar says more help will be needed and that the state needs a single point person to handle the crisis rather than having existing elected officials and their aides handling the crisis.

“The Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget estimates that the cost of accommodating migrants will be $1.4 billion in 2023 and $2.8 billion in 2024,” Rajkumar wrote in her legislative justification for A.7493. “Plans by the city to relocate people to other parts of the state has met resistance. “To address this logistical challenge, the state needs a single coordinator for a statewide response to the influx of asylum seekers. This response must include a settlement of asylum seekers across the state that relieves the undue burden on the City of New York. Given that migrants to the state have almost exclusively arrived in this city, the governor and the Mayor of the City of New York should jointly appoint the coordinator.”

County executives in dozens of rural counties — including Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties — have issued emergency declarations seeking to keep migrants from being resettled to their counties. County Executive PJ Wendel. Republican members of the Chautauqua County Legislature backed Wendel’s emergency declaration. Rockland County’s emergency declaration will return to court on June 14, though a judge allowed the declaration to remain in effect while he hears the case. Roughly 60 migrants were bussed to Albany County over the weekend with another 150 migrants possibly being sent to the county. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy told the New York Post the situation there is organized chaos.

“We just hope for better coordination as we go forward to work with the mayor’s office in this and not just keep getting surprised,” McCoy told the Post.

Hochul and Adams last week jointly asked the Biden administration to expedite work permits for asylum seekers and provide more immigration judges to speed up the process. Those seeking asylum legally can’t work for 180 days. During that time migrants have to file an asylum claim. It then takes roughly six months for working papers to be issued, but a nationwide backlog at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has delayed those papers.

“And so, this is an issue that’s affecting our economy,” Hochul said last week. “It’s not just individuals. It’s affecting us with this historic labor shortage. But at the same time, we have a historic labor shortage. We also have this unprecedented influx of infant individuals arriving in New York, all of them legally seeking asylum. They’re eager to work. They want to work. They came here in search of work and a new future, and they can become part of our economy and part of our communities, and people are ready to start training them right in facilities like we have here today. So today we are joined by all these leaders and all of you in a common goal that is to get them situated, these asylum seekers situated.”


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