Mayor wants to provide ‘true picture’ of NYC migrant crisis during trip to South America this week

Mayor Eric Adams (center) says his four-day trip to Mexico and South America this week will focus on disuading migrants from coming to New York City. Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023.
Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday said that while traveling to Mexico and South America this week, he plans to counter a narrative that New York City will provide for an endless number of migrants by giving a “true picture” of how the influx is impacting the Big Apple.

Hizzoner said his coming four-day joint to Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia will run Wednesday through Saturday. He made the remarks during the first of a new once-per-week mayoral briefing devoted to taking reporters’ questions on any subject.

The mayor said he is going abroad to counter a robust online “propaganda machine” that has given migrants a “false promise” that the city will house them in a five-star hotel and immediately allow them to work. He said this “campaign” spreads across social media sites like Facebook and is attracting migrants from all over the world.

“We’re going to tell them that coming to New York doesn’t mean you’re going to stay in a five star hotel, it doesn’t mean that … you automatically are going to be allowed to work,” Adams told reporters. “We’re going to tell them what the real conditions are. The large number of thousands of people living in congregate settings.”

The mayor said his Deputy Mayor for Communications, Fabien Levy, is working to get him on a variety of local media channels in the countries he is visiting to spread his message. His tour starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday.

“They are going to attempt to get me on as many stations — newspapers, radio, TV — in these areas [as possible] to get people the honest truth,” the mayor said. “There’s a body of people who are there that are giving them false hope to false promises, we want to give people a true picture of what is here.”

Adams and his top deputies have for many months said the city is at capacity when it comes to housing migrants, even though the number in its care — currently 61,000 — continues to grow. While the federal and state governments have taken some actions to support the city, it has largely shouldered the influx on its own.

Nearly 119,000 migrants have come through the city’s shelter system intake since last year.

The message that new arrivals will not be placed in a hotel room conflicts with how the city has housed new arrivals thus far. A large percentage of migrants currently in the city’s care are living in hotels that were converted to emergency shelters, although a few thousand single adults are staying in larger congregate facilities.

The majority of newcomers have so far not been able to obtain legal work status, though many are working off-the-books. However, thousands of Venezuelan migrants who arrived here before July 31 are now eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status, which would allow them to legally work, after the White House recently extended and redesignated the status.

The mayor’s bid to personally implore South American migrants to travel elsewhere follows City Hall last week disseminating a new flyer also aimed at discouraging new arrivals from coming here. That flyer makes claims that are not entirely true, like that the city cannot help migrants obtain work permits, even though it has ramped up efforts recently to do just that.

When asked by amNewYork Metro if he actually expects his planned media blitz to dissuade more newcomers from showing up in the city to work, the mayor said while it might not, he’s “going to try.”

“I have a crisis in the city that I love and I have to face that crisis on a local, state, national and international level,” Adams said. “And if I can start a conversation in these countries [with] people saying the Mayor of the City of New York is telling us when we go there, we’re not going to be in the five star hotel as many have told us. If that can resonate and start that conversation there, I’m going to try.”

According to an advisory released by City Hall on Monday, the mayor will travel to locations in each country including Mexico City; Quito, Ecuador; and the Darién Gap — a dangerous stretch of jungle that runs between Colombia and Panama where many migrants travel through on their journey to the U.S.

Adams said he is visiting the Darien Gap to see what the “flow” of migrants looks like through the area. He added that he’s meeting with leaders in all three countries seeking “partnerships” with them to stem the flow of migrants coming here.

The planned excursion has already been criticized by groups including the New York Immigration Coalition and New York Working Families Party. In a Monday statement, NYIC Executive Director Murad Awawdeh blasted the trip as pointless” and suggested Adams’ time would be better spent working with organizations on the front lines of the crisis here.

“Mayor Adams has no authority to affect any international policy changes, making this travel even more ridiculous.” Awawdeh said. “You need to be living under a rock to not know how asylum seekers are coming to the United States. We suggest that Mayor Adams focus on his work here in our great city.”