A mother seeking asylum in the United States died by suicide in a New York City shelter Sunday, City Hall officials said in a statement Monday.
Mayor Eric Adams referred to her as a "young woman" in a statement on Monday.
“The thousands of asylum seekers we have seen arrive in our city came to this country seeking a better life. Sadly though, yesterday, an asylum seeker in one of our facilities took her own life,” Adams said in the statement.
It wasn’t immediately clear where the woman was staying, how long she’d been in the city’s shelter system or whether she was among the migrants who were bused to New York from southern border states with hardline immigration policies. Adams’ office declined to provide further information, citing privacy concerns, but encouraged people who were considering suicide to reach out for help.
Addressing the woman’s death at an unrelated press conference Monday morning, Adams blamed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’ve been sending asylum seekers to Washington, D.C., New York, Massachusetts, in what Democrats have decried as a political stunt. Spokespeople for the two governors did not respond to request for comment.
“The woman was traumatized by this whole experience,” he said. “The failure was the governors that sent people on multi-day bus rides.”
“We didn’t fail in the city. This city is helping people,” he added.
But not everyone agrees with the mayor.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos of Queens said the death of the woman is a "indictment" on how the city is handling asylum seekers in the shelter system.
"It is an indictment of the highest order that this woman, who was seeking refuge, arrived in New York City and was so overcome with hopelessness that she decided to end her life. Her act was a direct response to the lack of care provided by the City," Ramos said in a statement, adding that "there is no excuse for a failure of this magnitude."
Adams’ administration has struggled to house an influx of migrants over the past several months. The city estimates more than 11,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since May, 8,500 of whom are in the city's shelter system, Adams said at the Monday press conference.
In response, the city opened up 23 emergency shelters to begin to accommodate them. Last week, Adams suggested he might house the incoming asylum seekers on cruise ships. He declined to elaborate on that plan on Monday.
Attorneys for homeless New Yorkers have flagged repeated violations of the city’s right to shelter law, that requires the city provide a shelter bed to anyone who seeks one. The mayor last week said the city's right to shelter mandate "must be reassessed," but offered no details on what that may entail.
Last week advocates found dozens of homeless men had to sleep on benches on and the ground of an intake center, the Daily News reported.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams chided "politicians" for using asylum seekers to advance their political agenda.
" This death is tragic. A young woman who came to this country seeking support has become a casualty of cruelty and political schemes by leaders placing a higher value on fundraising tactics than families in need," Williams said in a statement. “We need to expand systems of support in NYC for people seeking asylum, and more than that, we need politicians to stop treating people as pawns– with dangerous, now deadly, consequences.”
Suicides in the shelter system are relatively rare. A Health Department report found 12 shelter residents died by in fiscal year 2021, just one of which occurred in the facility itself.
The city encouraged people in need of mental health assistance to call 888-NYC-WELL.
This is story was updated to include additional context and remarks from State Sen. Jessica Ramos and the public advocate.