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Testimony: City’s Shelter Policies for Recent Immigrants are Discriminatory

Recent policy changes New York City has put in place regarding shelter stays for recent adult immigrants are troubling. Although shelter in NYC is legally mandated to be provided to every person, regardless of immigration status, recent migrants have been given substandard shelter since many began arriving in our city in greater numbers in the summer of 2022. Recently, the city implemented a 60-day limit on shelter stays for adult migrants. We’re now seeing the cruel results of this policy, with many being forced to sleep outside. Chipping away at the rights of asylum seekers and New Yorkers experiencing homelessness does nothing to solve the underlying issues: a dysfunctional immigration system and a housing crisis. Deborah Berkman, supervising attorney of NYLAG’s Shelter Advocacy Initiative and the Public Assistance and SNAP Practice testified before the New York City Council Committees on General Welfare and Immigration about these policies. Below is an excerpt from her testimony: 

“[The Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers for newly arrived asylum-seekers] fail to meet the minimum standards for shelter in New York City by not providing residents with adequate food, not providing showers or areas to bathe, not assisting residents with enrolling their children in school, not providing access to medical care and generally not providing case management. NYLAG clients report experiencing each of these inadequacies while at non-DHS [Department of Homeless Services] emergency relief shelters. Also, and very troublingly, residents of these non-DHS shelters are not eligible for the housing subsidies that allow people experiencing homelessness to transition to permanent housing, which they may be eligible for if they resided in DHS shelter, and which is often the primary way for many shelter residents to obtain stable housing.” 

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