New York City opens tent camp for asylum seekers

Randall's Island in New York City. Photo by Adobe Stock
Randall’s Island in New York City. Photo by Adobe Stock

New York City opened a tent camp last week to house asylum seekers being bused in from southern border states. The facility is part of the mayor’s emergency response as thousands of migrants have arrived since last Spring.

The new Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center will house 500 asylum seekers on Randall’s Island, who are mostly from Venezuela. It will be restricted to single men. Women and families with children are being housed in hotels. 

As quoted by the Associated Press, Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol had this to say about the need for the new facility: “We needed a different type of operation that gave us the time and space to welcome people, provide them a warm meal, shower, a place to sleep, to understand their medical needs, to really then work with them to figure out what their next step is going to be.”

Randall’s Island is connected by several bridges to the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. The city’s subway is a bus ride or walk away. The facility includes dormitory tents with rows of cots, dining facilities, and a recreational room with televisions, video games, and board games. It also has space for asylum seekers to meet with case workers to connect with stable housing and other services.

This is supposed to be a temporary welcome center, with asylum seekers staying a maximum of 96 hours (four days). Some immigrant and homeless advocates, however, worry that it could end up as long term shelter for some migrants.

City officials have noted that some shelter residents may need their stays extended on a case-by-case basis as they are connected to stable housing and services. Advocates have questioned why the city does not also place these men in hotels.

Publicly funded tent facilities have been used in southern border states during both the Trump and Biden administrations. They have been a controversial housing solution on the border, cited for overcrowding and poor living conditions. Tents are also not a good long-term solution in a northern city like New York with winter fast approaching.

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