Illegal immigrants who arrived in New York City from southern border states are not entitled to benefits offered by the city's "right to shelter" policy, Mayor Eric Adams said on Wednesday.
Speaking on WABC's "Sid & Friends" radio show, the Democratic mayor was asked if he would ever consider ending New York City's status as a "sanctuary city," given that his administration struggles to accommodate the needs of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who have been arriving by bus from border states since last spring.
"We cannot be a sanctuary city and complain," said host Sid Rosenberg, citing criticisms about the city's handling of the ongoing illegal immigration crisis. "You can't have it both ways. You can't be a sanctuary city and then complain about the influx of migrants."
"We don't believe asylum seekers fall into the whole right-to-shelter conversation," Adams said, referring to a 1979 law that requires the city's homeless shelter system to provide a bed to anyone in need of one. "This is a crisis that must be addressed based on what was created on this national platform."
Several activist groups took issue with Adams's comments, arguing that it's his job as a mayor to follow the law, not to interpret to whom the law applies.
In response to the condemnations, the mayor's office argued that the Adams administration is working to fulfill its legal obligations amid the overwhelming circumstances that no one could have foreseen.
"Since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis last spring, Mayor Adams and this administration have taken extraordinary measures to provide shelter and support to the approximately 42,000 asylum seekers who have sought help from the city. We have already opened 79 hotels and four humanitarian relief centers, and another is scheduled to open shortly."
In September 2022, Adams said the homeless shelter system was "nearing its breaking point" and that the city must "reassess" the way it puts the right-to-shelter policy in practice.
"In this new and unforeseen reality, where we expect thousands more to arrive every week going forward, the city's system is nearing its breaking point," Adams said at that time. "As a result, the city's prior practices, which never contemplated the busing of thousands of people into New York City, must be reassessed."