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Asylum seekers in the US frozen out

24 January 20240 comments

As freezing temperatures hit US cities, hundreds of asylum seekers are being evicted from homeless shelters as their 30-day curfews expire.

The 30-day limit for individuals and 60 days for families was imposed by New York mayor Eric Adams as asylum seeker numbers seeking shelter in the city rise and amid community complaints over begging and shoplifting.

Lines of hundreds of asylum seekers awaiting relocation to new shelters have been seen on New York snow-covered streets.

The logistical situation facing both New York and much of the US is difficult with more than 10,000 asylum seekers a day crossing into the United States from Mexico in December alone, the highest number in 23 years.

During the final week of December, 14 buses filled with migrants came into New York City, sent by Republican Texas Governor, Greg Abbott who has begun busing asylum seekers to the so-called sanctuary cities of Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC.

This has led Mayor Adams to sue 17 charter bus companies who’ve been ferrying migrants to New York.

But advocates have called for the end to the evictions.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, one of the mayor’s harshest and an outspoken opponent of how newcomers are being treated, said at a rally that “any asylum seekers are part of families that have travelled thousands of miles through treacherous conditions to get here”.

“They are trying to do the best they can for themselves and their children. They are not breaking the law. The only people who are breaking the law are in the Adams’s administration” since they are keeping people from accessing Right to Shelter protections,” he said.

Mr Williams also highlighted the possible impact of the evictions on families with school-aged children, since displacement is likely to disrupt their ability to learn.

“Even if school bus transportation is provided as mandated by federal law, traveling more than an hour between shelter and school can become untenable,” he said.

Asylum seekers in Chicago are also suffering freezing temperatures.

For more than a year, the city has wrestled with how to house new arrivals until shelter space is free, utilizing measures that city leaders insist are a stopgap. Recently these have been parked buses, police stations and airports.

The makeshift approach has put volunteers and non-profit groups under pressure, particularly because of the city’s long winters.

Chicago’s response has attracted criticism for its haphazard approach with a heavy reliance on volunteers who have spent more than a year providing food, medical care and donated items.

City leaders say the situation keeps changing and there have been snags along the way.

Mayor Brandon Johnson floated the idea of a heated tent encampment, but construction was abandoned over the risk of contaminants at the former industrial site.

The city also instituted a 60-day limit for shelter stays, but has delayed the first batch of notices twice because of the weather.

Texas Governor Abbott’s busing operation has also been dropping off migrants at all hours in different Chicago area cities without coordination.

“This is an international crisis that requires federal intervention of which local government is subsidizing that work. Never designed to do it, but yet here we are still standing,” Mayor Johnson said.

More than 33,000 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, have arrived in Chicago since 2022.

Currently, nearly 15,000 migrants are living in 28 shelters and the city is continually opening more.