For months, as New York City staggered under the impact of more than 110,000 asylum seekers from the southern border, Mayor Eric Adams has pleaded for help from the federal government.
On Friday, a show of support arrived: At least 10 Democratic members of Congress, from as far away as Texas and Los Angeles, toured the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown, where the city is lodging 850 migrant families.
The delegation, led by Representatives Adriano Espaillat and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, praised the city’s efforts, and members were optimistic about a way forward.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said there was a “consensus” among the Congress members on important issues — getting more federal aid to cities, speeding work authorization for migrants and extending temporary protected status for Venezuelans, the largest group coming to New York.
But a small, very loud crowd of protesters, whose shouts of “Close the border!” and “Send them back!” drowned out the speeches, signaled a different and more difficult reality facing the city.
A Republican-controlled House is unlikely to offer New York much help. Rather, conservative politicians have used the crisis as a talking point in their push to secure the border and reduce immigration.
And Democrats themselves are divided.
President Biden, who faces furious pushback on border control and a re-election campaign, has made limited moves on policies New York leaders have asked for.
Still, Mr. Espaillat sounded a hopeful note: “The American dream will not be bullied into submission today.”
Only last week, he and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez criticized Mr. Adams for saying that the migrant issue “will destroy New York City” — a reference to the projected $12 billion cost over three years of housing the migrants.
“I don’t think they’re going to destroy the city,” Mr. Espaillat told The Hill, adding, “we disagree on that.” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Mr. Adams’s comment — which became a Republican talking point — “puts solutions even further away and only escalates tensions and obstacles.”
On Friday, Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York called his tour of the Roosevelt “inspiring” and praised the city for “doing herculean work.”
That work, including opening over 200 migrant sites, has spurred protests across the city. On Friday, outside the barricades set up for the news conference, David Rem, 59, of Queens held a sign: “No work authorization! Remain in Mexico!”
He said his family in Colombia had been waiting seven years for an immigration hearing so they could enter the country legally. “These people are not true asylum seekers,” he said of the migrants at the hotel.
Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican congresswoman from Staten Island, said in a statement after the protest that she hoped the Democratic Congress members “got the message today that New Yorkers are fed up with President Biden’s open border policies that are wreaking havoc in their city.”
The Congressional visit came amid signs that the city was starting to keep up with the influx of migrants.
Even though migrants continue to arrive, the number in city shelters, which had grown steadily since the spring of 2022, has been relatively flat for the last three weeks: It has increased by only 600 since Aug. 20, to 59,900, even as more than 8,800 migrants entered the system, according to statistics released by Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom.
That indicates that about 2,700 per week found somewhere else to stay during that time.
In the spring, the situation was different: During the three weeks from May 28 to June 18, fewer migrants arrived, but only about 1,200 people per week left shelters, city data suggests.
Ms. Williams-Isom attributed the leveling off to the city’s aggressive efforts to find homes for migrants — including by buying them tickets to destinations outside the city — and to a new rule requiring single adult migrants who have been in a shelter for 60 days to reapply and start the entire intake process over again if they want to remain in the city’s care. No migrants will hit their 60-day limit until late this month, but some are leaving before their time is up.
Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society, which represents the group that monitors conditions at city homeless shelters, said on Friday that he was encouraged.
“They are finally rolling out case management and that’s making a difference,” he said.
Last month, the Roosevelt was the site of the city’s most visible failure during the crisis, when it left hundreds of migrants to sleep on the sidewalk outside. Mr. Adams said, “There is no more room.” But it was later reported that the city had hundreds of beds available.
On Friday, migrant families came and went from the hotel, among them Naileth Torres, 36, of Venezuela, and two sons. She had not seen the Congress members but had a message for them: “I have a child with disabilities — I need for them to help me so that he can have his therapy.”
She had one other request: that she be allowed to work. “Whatever work,” she said, and headed down East 46th Street.