Testimony: Oversight Hearing on DSS Manipulation of Monthly Eligibility Rate Reporting

Alexandra Dougherty, Senior Staff Attorney and Policy Counsel of the Civil Justice Practice at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) testified before an Oversight Hearing on DSS Manipulation of Monthly Eligibility Rate Reporting held by the New York City Council Committee on General Welfare.

This testimony highlights the already formidable challenges faced by migrants to New York and their families with regard to housing and services, while detailing why proposed changes by the current mayoral administration would put these populations at even greater risk.

"In this already fraught landscape, the Adams administration announced its intention to modify New York City’s detainer law to allow local law enforcement to transfer anyone suspected of committing serious crimes to U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE). This change would further perpetuate family separation and divide communities.


"In addition to the challenge of finding housing in a city where affordable housing is increasingly rare, newly arrived immigrants in New York City face distinct hurdles including language barriers, lack of access to healthcare and social services, limited job opportunities, and cultural adjustments. Many asylum seekers are also facing emotional and psychological repercussions of their experiences fleeing their home countries. The punitive rhetoric used by this administration around shelters housing recently arrived immigrants reframes residents’ legitimate challenges as public safety concerns best addressed by law enforcement. By criminalizing the poverty and stress of recently arrived immigrants, the city is inflicting irreversible harm on an already vulnerable population.


"BDS support Int 0210-2024 as an important step towards ensuring stable housing for all New Yorkers. The existing limits on stays in shelters serving newly arrived immigrants impose unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, trauma, and disruption on a particularly vulnerable community.

We urge the council to be cognizant of increasing reliance on law enforcement and child welfare enforcement in shelters. Given the administration’s rhetoric and the behavior of shelter staff even with the ability to discharge residents after 30 or 60 days, we anticipate that reliance on law enforcement and ACS will only increase if Int 0210-2024 passes. Ongoing monitoring and oversight to support new arrivals to our city is necessary to limit the overreliance on law enforcement and ACS and the irreversible harm that comes from involvement in the criminal and family legal systems."

Read the full testimony here.

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