NYC immigrants decline free, taxpayer-funded plane, bus tickets to relocate despite city’s lack of shelter space

News & Politics

A vast majority of immigrants residing in New York City are declining to relocate despite being offered free, taxpayer-funded plane and bus tickets, the Gothamist reported based on recently released data.

The city began restricting shelter stays for immigrant adults to 30 days in September. Those who have reached the city’s stay limit are directed to a reticketing center, where they can opt to reapply for a shelter space or receive a free ticket to skip town. The Gothamist reported that only 2% of those offered a plane or bus ticket chose to relocate.

The line at St. Brigid’s, one of the city’s reticketing sites, is often wrapped around the building, and only about 15% of the 1,600 migrants who arrive at the center each day are able to secure shelter space for the evening. Between 800 and 2,800 migrants who go to St. Brigid’s daily are repeat visitors who could not obtain accommodations during their previous visit.

According to the data reviewed by the news outlet, 80% of immigrants are being turned away by the city’s maxed-out shelter system. Immigrants who are unable to secure shelter space are placed on a waiting list.

Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney with the nonprofit Legal Aid Society, told the Gothamist that the city should provide the migrants with “real case management so they can get what they need to move on.”

“Using an arbitrary deadline for people to have to leave shelter is disruptive and counterproductive,” Goldfein contended.

Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for New York City Democratic Mayor Eric Adams, told the news outlet, “We’re laser-focused on using intensive case management, reticketing, and legal support to help more people move out of shelter as they desire more self-sufficient lives.”

“While we are grateful for the assistance we have received thus far from our federal partners, we need more,” she added.

According to Mamelak, of the 30 people per day who opt for the free, taxpayer-funded ticket to leave the city, their top destinations include other parts of New York, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Mamelak stated that 60% of immigrants — roughly 113,000 — have left the city’s shelter system and “taken the next steps in their journeys.”

She told the New York Post that the city needs the Biden administration to “finish the job they started by providing more asylum seekers with expedited work authorization, sending additional financial support to New York City, and implementing a comprehensive decompression and resettlement strategy.”

Recently released city hall data revealed that the Adams administration is spending approximately $387 per day per immigrant, the Post reported.

A spokesperson for Adams told the news outlet, “In the last two months, Mayor Adams has laid out plans to save billions of taxpayer dollars as New York City manages a national humanitarian crisis, and the numbers show that our efforts are working.”

“We expect to save $2.3 billion by next summer,” the spokesperson added.

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