Nov 22, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Cities are reaching their capacity to shelter migrants

Migrant tents outside Chicago's 1st District police station on Nov. 20. Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Many American cities have reached a breaking point this fall over the number of migrants they can shelter and support.

Why it matters: The deepening crisis has forced cities and states — even those known as sanctuaries — to make difficult choices about resource allocation as they continue pushing for billions in federal funding.

  • "I tell people all the time when they stop me on the subway system, 'Don't yell at me, yell at D.C.,'" New York City Mayor Eric Adams told a recent town hall, per Politico.

Driving the news: Chicago and Illinois just last week implemented strict policies limiting new migrants to 60 days in shelters and slashing migrant rental assistance. Officials also promised to fine bus companies that leave migrants in unsanctioned areas outside of curfew hours.

  • New York City a month earlier instituted a similar 60-day limit, forcing those still in shelter to reapply for housing if they're unable to find it on their own, the AP reported.
  • Massachusetts maxed out its emergency family shelter system earlier this month, creating a waitlist that's now more than 100 families long. The state government failed to approve a supplemental budget to alleviate the situation last week.
  • Denver last month set a 14-day shelter limit for adult migrants, down from 21. However, it simultaneously extended the window for families with children to 37 days, from 30, CBS reported.
  • El Paso, Texas, has dedicated $3.8 million to build its first permanent shelter specifically for migrants amid hundreds of thousands of new arrivals, the WSJ reports. The area has seen a record high number of Border Patrol arrests.
  • San Diego County this fall committed $3 million in stopgap funds to help local aid groups support a temporary welcome center for the hundreds arriving at the border town every day, per the Union-Tribune.

Threat level: The new rules have left some migrants scrambling for places to sleep. In Denver, several families who exhausted their time in shelters are now camping in tents outside those same buildings, per Denverite.

  • Chicago started moving asylum-seekers from police stations to shelters this week, the Chicago Tribune reports.
  • In Boston, migrants arriving daily are being kicked out of Logan Airport, per the AP. The state is turning a transportation building into a temporary shelter for about 25 waitlisted families.

By the numbers: U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported more than 240,000 encounters with people crossing the southern border without visas in October alone.

  • The agency reported nearly 2.5 million encounters between October 2022 and September 2023.

Axios Denver's Alayna Alvarez and Axios San Diego's Kate Murphy contributed reporting.

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