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Transcript: Deputy Mayor for Health And Human Services Anne Williams-Isom Holds Briefing on Asylum Seeker Response

August 2, 2023

Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, Health and Human Services: Good afternoon. I'm Anne Williams-Isom, and I'm the deputy mayor for Health and Human Services. We're here today for our weekly asylum seeker briefing. Thank you for joining us. Asylum seekers arriving to our country are seeking to build the American dream. Here in New York City, we are working to give them a shot at that. We continue to respond to the asylum seekers who arrive here with humanity and compassion, even as our city is stretched to its breaking point. More than 95,000 asylum seekers have arrived here since last spring. These are human beings, someone's brother, someone's mother, someone's grandchild.

In the absence of a national strategy, our administration has stepped up. We have given them a place to sleep. Yesterday when I was at the Roosevelt, I saw a Pack 'n Play with a little one in there, just desperately trying to get some rest from their journey. We have given them food and blankets and clothing and medicine and legal help. We have enrolled over 18,000 children in our schools and so much more. New York City continues to do more than any other city in this nation, and I'm proud to announce today that in little over a month since we announced our Asylum Seeker Application Health Center, we have assisted migrants in submitting 1,300 asylum applications.

This innovative model is the first in the nation to combine government, private law firms and nonprofits to provide asylum application at this scale. Applying for asylum is a critical step to towards work authorization, which is the north star for our administration. Asylum seekers want to work, I can't say that enough. We hear it every day. As the mayor says, often there is nothing more anti-American than not letting people work. We want to thank the more than 30 private law firms that have been working pro bono to help us with these applications under the supervision of experienced immigration lawyers and alongside application assistance and interpreters.

Throughout this crisis New Yorkers have stepped up to help their fellow brothers and sisters in need, and they are continuing to do so. Today we are announcing that the city's leading universities have committed to providing undergraduate and graduate student application assistance throughout the fall. This includes four universities of New York schools: Baruch College of City University of New York Schools, Baruch College, City College, Hunter College, and Queens College. Along with Columbia University, New York Law and New York University, all of which will sponsor at least three full days at the clinic this fall giving their students the chance to volunteer as application assistants.

These universities are providing the students with an ability to earn credit for their time helping at the center. That's real world learning experience. Both my husband and I, when we attended law school, did clinics in that work and it really helped us to provide for our real life experience as we were young lawyers, coming together from all corners of New York City to help our newest New Yorkers get their applications in so that they can work and begin their quest towards the American dream.

But we cannot continue to absorb tens of thousands of newcomers on our own without more help from the state and the federal government. Last week, along with Leader Schumer, Leader Jeffries, Dean Nadler, and members of the New York Congressional Delegation, Mayor Adams met with Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas to discuss our city's needs related to the asylum seeker crisis. We made it clear that New York City cannot continue to carry the weight of a national problem on our own. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. We need others to step up and play their role as New York City is doing. This is a humanitarian issue about real people and real lives. Asylum seekers are coming here to seek the American dream. It is time for the rest of the nation to step up.

Before I pass it over to Georgina, I want to thank our other partners who have joined us today. The progress we've been able to make has been due to our whole-of-city approach alongside our legal partners and now including a number of our city's academic institutions. With us today, we have Liliana Vaamonde from Columbia Law School, Matt Gewolb from New York Law, Melissa Begg from Columbia School of Social Work, Nathalia Holtzman from Queens College, Tony Liss from City College, Linda Essig from Baruch College, and Mary Cavanaugh from Hunter College.

Again, I want to extend the administration's gratitude to each and every law firm, nonprofit, academic institution and fellow New Yorkers from each of the organizations involved in this. When I was at the Harlem Children's Zone, Geoffrey Canada would tell me all the time that despair is contagious, but so is hope. You are giving New Yorkers hope today. We hope that that is contagious and we are able to give the asylum seekers what they need so that they can continue on their journey. This humanitarian crisis has required a whole-of-city response, and each of you are making that possible. Let me now turn the mic over to NYU Provost Georgina Dopico, to say a few words on behalf of all the academic institutions working with us.

Georgina Dopico, Interim Provost, NYU: Thank you, Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom, for all that you, Mayor Adams, and your teams have done over the past year and a half to welcome new arrivals to New York. Speaking as someone who came to this country seeking asylum as a child, and who has benefited immensely from programs like this one, I'm especially proud that NYU is joining the city and our fellow institutions of higher education in this important effort to support the newest New Yorkers to build a home here in this city that has long welcomed immigrants and celebrated their many contributions to our vibrant urban life.

Since its founding nearly 200 years ago, NYU has been an institution in and of the city. As both the city itself and our university community, communities have grown more diverse, more complex, and more global, NYU has become increasingly, like our partner institutions, institutions in and of the world. In that spirit, we welcome this opportunity to participate in this initiative alongside many of New York's great colleges and universities, and in concert with partners from the public and private sectors to assist the newest members of our community to apply for asylum at the city's Asylum Application Help Center. 

We're looking forward to working alongside Columbia School of Social Work, Columbia Law, New York Law School, Baruch College, Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work, Queens College and City College. Together, we and our peer institutions are making a multifaceted commitment. Starting this fall, we'll send cohorts of volunteers, students, faculty and staff to help those seeking asylum complete their applications. We will offer credit bearing courses for students to contribute to this effort that will include actual coursework as well as internships, externships and fellowships.

We're honored to be able to contribute what's, perhaps, our most valuable resource, the time and talent of our students, our faculty and our staff to this critical work. Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom, New York City's colleges and universities are ready to help, grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with you and with such wonderful partners and eager to help make asylum possible for our new neighbors. Thank you.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Thank you so much, Georgina. You remind me that we all have a story about how we got here and how we came here. The question we have to ask ourselves is what is history going to say about what we did? What did each of us do in this moment and how do we want history to remember us? Thank you all.

Before we open it up for questions, I'd like to go over some of the numbers for this week. As of July 30th, we have 107,900 people in our care, including 56,600 asylum seekers. Over 95,600 people have come through our system since last spring. We have opened 194 sites, including 13 humanitarian relief centers. Last week alone, from July 24th to July 30th, more than 2,300 asylum seekers entered our system.

As you all can see, the situation is not letting up and there does not seem to be any end in sight. We call again to our federal government to do more, including naming the asylum seeker crisis a federal emergency, to speed up work authorizations and to enact a national decompression strategy.
With that, we'll open up to the floor to questions.

Question: A couple of months ago, deputy mayor, you mentioned that you were going to try to get other municipalities in New York to take some of the load off of New York City. There's been litigation back and forth. What's the latest, specifically with Long Island? If I could just ask one other question yesterday, Sayegh said that the mayor said that the border has to be brought under control. What did he mean by that?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Thank you for your question. I can't speak to what the mayor meant by that, but you do know that we have talked about doing our own decompression strategy in the absence of a national decompression strategy. I think there's probably over 1,500 folks who are now in other parts of the state. We would love for the state to help us do that in a more aggressive manner, as quicker manner, because we would love to place people quicker than we are able to do right now.

We are very thankful to those municipalities that have stepped up and are helping migrants get access to an American dream. We think that there are plenty more places where people could be settled, and so we are constantly asking people to step up so that we can make sure that the asylum seekers have a place to lay their head at night.

Question: Has any more stepped up since the last time we had the update?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: We're continuing to work with the state on that.

Question: Hi there.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Hi.

Question: Henry with PIX. Since the meeting with the White House last week, first, what specifically did Homeland Security and Biden administration officials say was the reason for not more dollars and more work permit authorizations that you've been asking for for some time? And have they offered the possibility of anything else, for example, refugee centers they opened for Afghan refugees, maybe doing some of that work here, or the emergency declaration to make federal space available? Those two other items seem like things he could do now with executive action.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I'm not going to talk about what their conversation was, but I'm going to tell you what we did. What we did was we advocated on behalf of New York City and we said the things that we've been saying, which is what we need, which is work authorization. We need access to federal sites. We need a federal declaration so that we can unlock more funds and more sites, and we need a national decompression strategy.

Question: But his representatives have been on the scene now for at least a couple of days, correct? And they've seen the scene outside the Roosevelt. What's taking so long? I think most New Yorkers are just wondering if you're seeing this.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I don't think that's my question to answer. I think that's the question that you should ask those folks about how they want to respond to what New York City is asking for.

Question: Can you respond to multiple reports that Randalls Island is being considered as a temporary shelf for migrants, possibly 2,000 migrants? And why this idea when the temporary tent city at Icahn Stadium was closed very quickly?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Yes. So you know that all options are on the table for us right now. I think when we originally did our tent in Randall's Island, that was probably 30,000 migrants ago, and so we are here now trying to make sure that we look at all the options on the table and that we're able to provide for prioritizing children and families. So that's what we're doing.

Question: Why are cops blocking reporters from speaking to migrants outside the Roosevelt Hotel? And is that a policy that City Hall enforces?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I'm not aware of that, Bernadette. So I'll get back to you on that, but there should be no reason why that's happening.

Question: Well, do you think that that's something that you guys will communicate to the NYPD? Because we have a reporter at the Roosevelt right now who was told they're not allowed to speak whatsoever to migrants.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: That seems very strange. I'll follow up.

Question: The situation at the southern border has improved in the sense that there are fewer asylum seekers crossing, and yet the numbers in New York don't seem to have changed. Can you explain? Can you characterize?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I wish I could explain that, but your characterization is exactly right. While things seem to be slowing down at the southern border, we have consistently been seeing 1,200, 1,200, 1,500, 2,000 folks coming into New York City. The only thing that I can say… My opinion is that people are coming from other parts of the United States. When the doors are closing in Denver, when the system is full in Chicago, people say, "Let's go to New York City because we know that New York City will provide migrants with food and shelter and the things that they need." So that is what I think is happening.

Question: Do you know how many are still arriving on buses from the southern border?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So there's still a lot. I think last night we got three more buses and today we're expecting more buses. So the buses from Texas are continuing. They certainly are not what we've seen a couple of months ago. But I think that's why there's a little disconnect with people are like, "What is going on in New York City and how is it possible that you're seeing that many people?" Right? I can't make that up. We are seeing 2,300 people a week still coming into New York City seeking shelter. That is unsustainable.

Question: So you spoke to how many asylum modifications have been filed since the center opened. When you made that announcement, you talked about how a lot of asylum seekers were coming up on that one-year mark where they wouldn't be able to apply anymore.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Right.

Question: What happens to them now? I mean, I'm assuming many of them are past that point.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: You want to answer?

Rahul Agarwal, Deputy Chief Counsel to the Mayor and City Hall, Law Department: I can jump in.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Go ahead.

Agarwal: At the asylum center, the folks who are volunteering and assisting with those applications are focused on individuals who haven't yet hit that one-year mark. If we have folks that have hit the one-year mark, we're trying to refer them to legal services providers so that they have legal representation to address that issue.

Question: Thank you. Deputy mayor, a few briefings ago, you and the mayor announced the 60-day notice initiative.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Yes.

Question: I'm wondering, since then, how many 60-day notices have you actually handed out?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Okay.

Question: Can you comment on whether or not the 60-day notices is what has prompted the situation outside of the Roosevelt?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I can definitely see how people are connecting that. So you're right. We announced a couple of weeks ago, a 60-day rule for single men only. Since then, we've handed out about 800 notices. And what we're seeing, Chris, is that a lot of people are asking to be re-ticketed. A lot of people want to join other friends and families that they have. A lot of people want access to ID cards so that they can make their way and get settled in other places. What we're seeing right now, there hasn't been anybody who is leaving as a result of the 60 days, because the 60 days is up. We just started the 60 days on July 26th. I think it was last Monday, if that was the date. What we're seeing is the ongoing struggle of a system that is buckling with 500 people a day. And so that is the struggle that we're having right now and what we're seeing that's happening at the Roosevelt.

Question: So no one has gone to reapply for [inaudible].

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: The 60 days wouldn't be up yet.

Question: So actually I have two questions. My first question is, a few weeks ago, you and the mayor announced that you were going to do your own strategy by sending people to the border with flyers saying, "Don't come to New York."

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Yeah.

Question: So my question is, how many people have you actually sent to the border? How many flyers have you given out, and why has this not stopped the flow?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I'm going to get back to you in terms of how many people have actually received the flier. We know that we definitely wanted to put it also on social media. I think, Marcia, people are coming here because they're desperate. And so we really need the federal government to help us with a decompression strategy because people still have need. And so if they were to help organize where people can go to, and if we could have other cities do half of what New York City is doing, I think we would be able to manage this much better.

Question: So my second question is, yesterday I was at a shelter in Queens and they had this school where I talked to a woman who had been in a homeless… She's not a migrant. She's been in the country for five years. She was staying at a women's shelter in the Bronx. On Friday, she was uprooted, told to bring all of her stuff and put in this shelter for migrants in Queens, where she's living in a dormitory where men and women sleep together.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Huh.

Question: What is going on? Are you clearing out the Bronx shelter so you could put families? I mean, was there a need? I mean, what prompted her to be moved from this place on the [inaudible] in the Bronx?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I cannot speak to her particular situation, but what I can say is that we do have some individuals who are in hotel rooms, and what we would like to do is switch those individuals into more congregate settings so that we can have priorities for families with children.

Question: You're trying to find places for families and children.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: When people say we don't have a plan, I almost laugh. We've had a short-term plan, a medium-term plan, and a long-term plan. And we're using all the tools in our toolbox in order to make sure that we're prioritizing children with families.

Question: Deputy mayor, Mayor Adams has said he's most proud of the fact that migrants haven't been sleeping on the street like other cities, in San Francisco out west.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Yeah.

Question: And I'm wondering with some of the actions the city's taking, questioning the right to shelter, the 60-day rule, don't you think that it's likely that we're going to start seeing the sort of encampments that we've seen out west and other cities across the country if the city makes these sort of moves? And then secondly, I think some people were wondering if the city has more moves that it could do in terms of renting space. Is there nowhere for the people that are sleeping on the sidewalk to go?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So the mayor has said he's been proud of not having people sleep on the street, and you know I've been particularly proud of not having people sleep on the street. The question is not what New York City is not doing, it's why is no one else doing anything. So I've been here for months and weeks after weeks saying, "We're going to get to this point if we don't get some help." And so I think people are making choices about what they want to do. I think, Jeff, with 194 sites and probably 500 others that we look at, which might not be appropriate for a lot of different reasons, I think that we've done a lot, and I think I'm the guardian of the right to shelter in that we have been able to keep the DHS system intact, but it is buckling and eventually there is going to be lack of resources, lack of staff, the staff is trying their best, working 12 hours, and a lack of sites that are appropriate for people.

Question: I think Liz from Gothamist reported a little while ago that the city is planning to house people in potentially Central Park and Prospect Park. Can you comment on that? Is the city making a plan to do that?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So what I will comment on, and I think this plan was leaked almost nine Covid ago, where there were all kinds of sites that we have to look at, similar to when we went to the Covid emergency, when we were like, "Where do we need to be and what is possible?" People on the one hand cannot accuse us of not having enough space, of telling us not to go to certain places, and then on the other hand, tell us, "Well, you can't go here and you can't go there." We are making the best decisions that we can given the information that we get. If we could get a decompression strategy where the amount of people coming through the front door would slow down, I think that we would be able to manage this much better. But right now everything is on the table.

Question: My question is, what is the average time that a person who applies for the asylum seekers takes to be approved? And after he's approved, is the services that universities are giving for those who are approved or are those for those who are in the process of seeking asylum?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So are you talking about the app… I'm going to answer that about the applications that we're doing in the legal side. But when an asylum seeker comes to us, we are required and have been giving them shelter as soon as we can and placements as soon as we can. But Rahul?

Agarwal: Yeah, so if I understand your first question correctly, it's how long does it take for an asylum seeker application to actually be processed such that they receive asylum?

Question: Correct. It's also are the services that universities are provided for those who are approved or also for those who are in the process of seeking asylum.

Agarwal: I see. So on your first question, it takes a long time. I mean, the system is overburdened, applications are filed and they often take years before they're actually resolved. We, the mayor, the city, have advocated for increased resources to try to address that backlog, but there is a substantial asylum backlog. With respect to services that universities and other volunteers are providing, those services are to help folks actually file their asylum application. So it's folks who have not yet filed within one year of arriving. It's to make sure that paperwork gets filed in as efficient and productive a way as we can.

Question: Deputy mayor, where's Mayor Adams? He was meant to be at this briefing and clearly the city is at a point where things are going to change dramatically.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Hi, Emily. I think he had a change in schedule is my understanding.

Question: Not that this isn't important to him anymore?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Oh, no, of course it's important. It's what we all think about all day long, but I think he had something that changed on his schedule. I'm not sure.

Question: Hey, deputy mayor.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Hey.

Question: Just a couple of quick questions. How far away are we from, say, trying to get people into the job itself? Something, I know there's a lot of logistics and ways in which that just makes things like where that's not even possible, but just as a [inaudible].

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I'm not going to answer hypothetical questions, but everything is on the table, right? Because I have to have a long-term plan, and so we are trying to do the best that we can.

Question: Any update on the profile as to who is coming in? I know that we've had 2,300 that came in last week. But is there any update as to who the average asylum seeker is that you're seeing, where they're coming from?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: We can probably get you that listed. There's many coming from the continent of Africa, a lot is from Venezuela, Central America. I've been seeing folks now from Turkey and China and all different kinds of places, so I'm not exactly sure what's happening where the people are coming over the Southern border. It fluctuates. Some weeks we see more singles than we do families. For the past couple of week, I think the buckling of the system has happened because of the influx of families with children, and so that changes every now and then too. They're all seeking the American dream though. All want to come and work and all want to come and get settled.

Question: Hi, deputy mayor.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Hi, Liz.

Question: I wanted to follow up on the question about my story about the plan for tents and parks.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Okay.

Question: One of our sources says that, for example, the 20 Precinct has been alerted about such a plan. What does that say about who is being briefed on this plan and how imminent is it?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Liz, as you know, we have been having asylum seeker command calls for all city agencies from the very beginning of this. Again, when people say that we don't have a plan, it really is a whole of government approach, and so we continuously have sites, I think it's over 800. I'm looking at the team sites that we look at constantly. We look at the flow through the front door, we look at our priorities, we look at what's happening in the, we haven't spoken today about the unhoused New Yorkers, the 50,000 that are still coming in.

That summertime is a surge when families and children come into the system. So we are constantly refreshing that list and seeing what work we would need to do, how we would have to change it. And so I want you to know that we are constantly looking at sites to see how we can accommodate people, but we need support and we think that the system is at a breaking point, and we would love it if other jurisdictions throughout the state, Upstate could take some people. We know that they need work. Upstate people need workers. We also know that they have more space than we do here in New York City. I think 56,000 people that have been taken into our city has been a lot.

Fabien Levy, Press Secretary: Just to add, over 3,000 that's been reviewed.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Over 3,000 sites that have been reviewed throughout the city to place people. Thank you, Fabien.

Question: Deputy mayor, why hasn't the city conducted an analysis of where people are coming from now and couldn't that help with the decompression strategy if we had a sense of what cities these individuals are coming from and where the bulk of people?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I don't think that we don't have an analysis. Because I know that when folks come through the asylum seekers, we do an intake form, so I can get that from you. I think that we're seeing, I actually know that we actually have an analysis and we have the percentage of each of those folks. I just wonder why the federal government is not doing that more so that they can play that role for us. We are doing the best that we can on the front end of making sure that we have spaces for folks. But yeah, I think knowing where people are coming from, we know that there is a lot of despair and in the countries that people are coming here from. I don't think that's a secret and I don't know that that analysis is going to help us with our front door.

Question: Hi, Deputy mayor.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Hi, Katie.

Question: I know with hundreds of people sleeping out on the street outside the hotel, they don't have access to bathrooms. Is that part of the city's strategy, I guess, to show how strapped they are financially and with space? Because I know previously there had been efforts to house people, but there's been hundreds of people that you leave on the street. So I just want to speak a little bit about that.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So Katie, you know me a little bit. You don't know me that well. I don't think I or any person in this administration would use people to do any type of a stunt. If I had to say, I think we have done, they say, how do you say? Hercules, Herculean. But I want to say Athenian efforts in this, and so we have done it with humanity and with compassion. And every week I come here and I talk about system's at its breaking point. I think we're going to… Things are not looking good. We need some support. And now New Yorkers are seeing what that means and what that looks like.

It's heartbreaking. No one's happy about that. We need support and it doesn't have to be that way. We need decompression. We need people to be able to work. We need the federal government to come in and say that this is a federal emergency and declaration so that we would be able to help people settle.

Question: So are we already at the next phase, as the mayor said, where you have just people sleeping on the street without access to bathrooms? Are we already in it right now?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I don't know that people don't have access to bathrooms, so I'll find that out from Dr. Ted who's doing an excellent job over there trying to make sure that he's taking care of people. But we are certainly in a new phase.

Question: Yeah. Good morning.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Good morning.

Question: You have already answered the question, but I would like to know, there's lot of African people coming here now. And in the last days, most of them just to enter the continent through Latin America, especially Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico. Do you think this is a new route of immigration or this is a new pattern?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I just can't believe that the Adams Administration is in the middle of a global crisis, literally. And I think that this is something that the federal government needs to be looking at. 

We know that there is unrest in many countries, and we know that people are coming to New York City in order to get support. So I think that the federal government should take the forefront in this crisis knowing and having all the data about where the unrest is and what is happening and what people need, and that we need to make sure that we have something where one city bearing the brunt of this doesn't seem fair to me.
And I think we are doing a great job, but I think they should also not take advantage of the kindness and the goodwill that we have here in New York City.

Question: Hi, deputy mayor. To follow up, when was the last time the city opened a new facility that falls into the category of the 194 that you're talking about? So I'm trying to get a sense of when was that 194th site opened and will there be a 195th?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I think that one, there was…

Levy: Two this week.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Two this week, right?

Levy: [Inaudible].

Question: Okay.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Yeah.

Question: Do you have a date for when the next one or now just looking for these HERRCs for other?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I think that there might be smaller ones as we try to figure out what space we have available and what's ready and that the Creedmoor HERRC is coming online and I think…

Levy: Hall Street.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: And Hall Street.

Question: When?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I can get those dates for you.

Question: [Inaudible.]

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Probably in the next two weeks or so. Today's the first, hopefully by the seventh, eighth or ninth, but we'll get that to you.

Question: So it is your plan to continue to open those sites as necessary. You're not saying you're not opening any more sites in that way. You're saying sort of two different things.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Yeah. I'm definitely saying two different things. I'm saying that we are managing this the best that we can. I'm saying that there's not a lot of good options on the table, and that we will continue to look at all the options that we have as these numbers grow. Because Melissa, right now, with the priority of families with children, with the three buses I'm getting today, I have to have a place to put families with children. So I'll have to make those decisions when the time comes.

Question: Can I just ask you also about the Black migrants? I think that New Yorkers have been asking, I've heard a lot of people saying, I didn't realize that there were so many African migrants. I know they've been coming in for a while. One of the advocates for the Black migrants said yesterday that they are underserved, even though there are a lot of them coming in or not as many translators or social programs, there's not as much of a network here to serve them. And that it even took some time to find a police officer who was able to communicate with them in their language yesterday outside the Roosevelt Hotel.
Is that an issue that you're working on or aware of?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I think that for us, we have seen that from the very beginning. I don't know if you remember when there were, I forget what country it was, but we had some mosque in the Bronx that were trying to take care of the African migrants… Thanks, Senegal. Thank you so much, sir. And so for many of us that are here, this has been something that we've been dealing with from day one, and I think Dr. Long told me that there's 15 different languages that are spoken at the Roosevelt in terms of the people that are there.

To me, what that means is that this is a global crisis and New York City's in the middle of this and asking us to do it on our own, I don't understand that. And so I think we can do more. We can do with more resources with the state helping us more and with the federal government helping us more.

Question: Hey, deputy mayor. Speaking to federal leaders, they're saying they're doing everything they can. They're writing letters. Obviously we're not seeing an impact from those letters. So what would you hope that the federal leaders do in this situation considering? Yeah.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So I don't want to answer that question. I want you to ask them what would be plan B from the letter writing? What's next? I know what I might do if it was me, but I think that what we need to do is ask some questions of them. I think we're doing a lot here in New York City, 194 sites, 95,000 people have come here, 107. I mean, nobody even gasps anymore when I say that we're taking care of 107,900 people.

Question: Congressman Jerry Nadler, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said yesterday pretty much that if the letters aren't working then they have to wait until the 2024 presidential election. 

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Oooh.

Question: Do you think that's a good timeline?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I think you should answer that for yourself. We see how…

Question: [Inaudible.]

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: No, we get 2,300 people a week. I can only speak to what we are doing here in New York City and I can guarantee New Yorkers that we are going to put our blood, sweat and tears into this and we are going to do the best that we can. I cannot speak for the federal government. I can advocate on behalf of New Yorkers and tell them what we need. I can tell the state what we need. It's going to be them to make the decision about how they want to support New York.

Question: And is there some sort of city or state law that could be passed to help migrants work just to cure the city? I mean, just some sort of program that a city or state law that could help that they could maybe just work in an isolated environment?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I think that's another question you should ask them.

Question: Deputy mayor, I'm wondering, there seems to be a mixed message here. You're trying to tell people to stay. New York doesn't have any more room, yet, you're building these new facilities. I mean, how do you–

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I don't think that that's mixed. I think it's called compassion and humanity. It's called that New York City is stepping up, but we are trying to say that if less people were coming through the front door, maybe we could catch up a little bit with getting exit strategies going and getting people their asylum applications and getting people connected to work. We are the beacon and an example of what is possible. We want people to take our example and do more. And so, I don't think it's a mixed message. I feel very clear about what our strategy is.

Question: And just to follow up on the Roosevelt Hotel. I mean, you said you went there yesterday. What did you see? How did it impact you? And then some people can't believe that the city does not have the resources of power to immediately fix that.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: The way that it impacts me is it is heartbreaking. And when I said to you that I went into that ballroom and I saw the Pack 'n Play there, when I see the little kids in the Roosevelt and I wonder why does no one care? I don't understand why nobody caress. That's what what I wonder.

Question: And I'm sorry, but I mean, what can the city do immediately though?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: What can the city do? I keep on saying that that's the wrong question. We're going to keep on doing what we've been doing, providing food, providing shelter, providing blankets, enrolling children in school, providing legal services, engaging in partners, having a faith-based strategy. All of the things that we've been doing, the 4.5 billion dollars that we are going to spend to do it. We're going to continue to do the best of what New York has to do…

Question: What question is being asked?

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: The question is, what more can the state and the federal government be doing?

Question: Yes. Deputy mayor, thank you, again. Most of the question was asked, and as you can see, some of these are African like she just said are here. And the worry is, how it's going to work with the application because they some of them are mislead, not knowing exactly how they would do the application. Some of them have been saying that you're wasting your time, nothing going to happen, stuff like that.

But in the same time, a colleague of mine was here a few weeks ago, we were sitting right here. She asked me the question, "Would it be a plan B?" That question is still here, even though we understand, you said it very well, New York City is going to keep doing what they have to do. But we are saying, would it be plan B? And [inaudible] last question is now if somebody's leaving, I don't know if you guys are aware of it, trying to cross the road and go to Canada. I don't know what the city of New York is doing with Canada is the next question.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Is that a plan B about app… Because you started with applications and legal applications. So you're saying, I don't know if the plan B was about what's our plan B for what the city's response is going to be?

Question: The city, yeah.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I'll just say that I think we're up to plan F. We're not on plan B. And I love the way that we are problem solving. I love the heart of the thousands of city workers and nonprofit workers who are engaging in this, and the faith-based leaders that are coming up, and even the advocates who I love, who at least they seem to be paying attention and care. I think we all have to pay attention and wake up and saying, "What can we be doing?" And when history asks, what did we do, we all have to be able to look ourselves in the eye and said, "I played my part."

Levy: I think we're on plan S, but thank you all.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Oh, thank you.

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