Adams administration officials say they expect three more busloads of asylum seekers to arrive in the city Wednesday, courtesy of Texas’ immigration hard-liner governor, Greg Abbott, as capacity at New York City emergency shelters falls beneath 1%.

“For the good of America, we have to get him out of office,” Mayor Eric Adams told a Tuesday briefing with reporters, blaming the Republican Abbott for what Adams contends is an influx of some 4,000 immigrants seeking asylum in recent months, clogging the city’s shelter system in the process.

But Adams is facing skepticism himself, including claims the city’s finger pointing at the Lone Star State and Abbott may be overblown – a distraction from the rising number of evictions spurred by steeply rising rents in the post-pandemic era, and a corresponding surge in the number of people filling shelters.

“We've never seen any basis offered, any data to support the claims that the system is being overwhelmed by asylum seekers,” said Adriene Holder, chief attorney of the Civil Practice at the Legal Aid Society, speaking at a press conference.

Holder's words were echoed by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams at a morning hearing.

“There is a lack of clarity on how this administration is quantifying how many asylum seekers are arriving in New York City," the speaker said. "It is clear that the city’s shelter system has been under increased stress due to a range of factors, including the economic impact of the pandemic and the end of the eviction moratorium.”

We've never seen any basis offered, any data to support the claims that the system is being overwhelmed by asylum seekers.

Adriene Holder, chief attorney of the Civil Practice at the Legal Aid Society

The comments add a new layer to a controversy that erupted into full public view Friday, when the first of two buses of asylum seekers arrived in New York City from Texas, followed by harsh criticism from the mayor and immigrant activists, who claimed the travelers had been sent on their way without sufficient food, water or medical care.

A total of 68 passengers were on the two buses, according to the mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. The new arrivals, however, are part of a much larger wave of at least 4,000 immigrants who have come from Texas in the last two months, according to Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro.

A 'historic surge'

During the City Council hearing, Castro referred to the current episode as a “historic surge” but said arriving immigrants would be treated with dignity.

“New York is a city of immigrants, and we will always welcome newcomers with open arms. Once you’re here, you’re a New Yorker, and we have your back,” said Castro, who is himself an immigrant and recipient of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era policy that allows young people who entered the United States unlawfully as children to remain, study and work.

Mayor Eric Adams greets immigrants who were sent to Port Authority from Texas on Sunday, August 7th, 2022.

Mayor Eric Adams greets immigrants who were sent to Port Authority from Texas on Sunday, August 7th, 2022.

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Mayor Eric Adams greets immigrants who were sent to Port Authority from Texas on Sunday, August 7th, 2022.
Mayoral Photo Office

During the Council hearing, Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins said officials at homeless shelters “began to notice an uptick in May” in the number of families arriving from other countries, followed by an increase in the number of single adults in June. There are nearly 17,000 people in the emergency shelter system, he said, including 8,800 children.

“The influx of asylum seekers definitely put a strain [on the system], and that’s why we had to pivot to open up emergency hotels. To date we’ve opened 11,” said Jenkins. “We’re legally and morally mandated to have temporary housing to those who present to us.”

Asylum, as defined by the United Nations, “is a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed (deported) to a country where he or she fears persecution or harm.” City officials contend that many of the new arrivals, who come from Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela and Argentina, seek asylum.

The mayor voiced confidence in the 4,000 figure and downplayed the effect of evictions on the shelter population, telling reporters Tuesday that “only 1% of those who are in shelters are there due to evictions.”

In July, StreetEasy reported that at least 34% of units on the New York market in the previous quarter could be attributed to tenants forced to move after being hit by steep rent increases, sometimes totaling in the thousands of dollars each month, after being wooed by bargains during the pandemic.

The mayor called on the Council to support him in appealing to the federal government for emergency funding to address the asylum-seeking population. Administration officials told Gothamist that three more buses from Texas were expected to arrive in New York on Wednesday. There was no indication Wednesday. The day before, Texas officials promised more asylum seekers would be sent north.

“Yes, more buses will depart from Texas to New York city as a part of our ongoing busing strategy,” Haley Crow, an aide to Abbott, said in an email to Gothamist. Abbott is in an increasingly tight re-election fight against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, a former member of Congress.

Democrats have described the busing strategy as a stunt meant to fan the conservative base.