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Katal Join With Immigrants Rights Organizations to Reject Mayor Adams’s Proposal to House Asylum Seekers at Rikers

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Monday, May 22, 2023

Contact: Yatziri Tovar, | (917) 771-2818

Yonah Zeitz,  | (347) 201-2769 

Follow on Twitter: @KatalCenter @MakeTheRoadNY | #CloseRikers 

Groups Working to Close Rikers Join With Immigrants Rights Organizations to Reject Mayor Adams’s Proposal to House Asylum Seekers at the Notorious and Deadly Jail Complex 

New York, NY: Last week, news broke that the Adams administration is “seriously considering” a plan to house asylum seekers at Otis Bantum Correctional Center, a closed Rikers Island jail. 

Make the Road New York and the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice issued the following statement:

“Rikers Island has a long and documented history of violence, abuse and mismanagement. For decades impacted people and community groups have demanded the closure of this tortuous jail complex. In 2015, the federal government instituted a federal monitor to address the rampant violence and deteriorating conditions at Rikers. In 2019, the City passed a plan to close Rikers and invest in public safety approaches that keep our communities safe without relying on incarceration. Today, Rikers remains an intolerable catastrophe. The humanitarian crisis continues to worsen and the Mayor’s current approach to the crisis on Rikers is centered on sending more low-income, Black, and brown New Yorkers to cages there, subjecting them to dangerous and life-threatening conditions. As a result, violence is at an all-time high. Rikers is the deadliest it has been in 25 years. Last week, the 21st incarcerated person passed away at Rikers since Adams took office. Rikers must be closed or more people will die. It is incredibly alarming and immoral for Adams to propose housing asylum seekers – who are pursuing their legal right to apply for asylum – in a decrepit, currently-closed jail facility on Rikers. 

Every individual in our city, regardless of immigration status, deserves to have a safe and stable place to live. We reiterate that the City has a moral obligation to do the right thing and provide real, appropriate, and safe solutions. Instead of housing migrants in crowded and inhumane places like Rikers Island, the Adams administration must listen to policy recommendations such as facilitating the movement of all shelter occupants from temporary to permanent housing through existing programs such as CityFHEPS. By expanding CityFHEPS eligibility to undocumented households, reforming bureaucratic processes to quickly process applications, and eliminating unnecessary rules, more New Yorkers will be able to receive assistance, move out of our shelter system and into permanent housing. This is a moment when we can make provide a safe and dignified place to live to all New Yorkers. We should act swiftly to utilize all tools available to provide housing solutions, including but not limited to, using available hotels and warehoused apartments.

We simply cannot house asylum seekers at Rikers. It is unsafe and no one should be placed in that hellhole. To consider housing asylum seekers here is unconscionable and would inflict unimaginable harm and trauma to individuals and families who have fled violence and are coming to this country in search of safety. This would be an absolute slap in their face. We reject this proposal and demand the Mayor scrap this immoral and ill-advised plan. The City Council must also step in and use its power to fight back against this dangerous proposal. Instead of housing asylum seekers at Rikers and doing everything he can to keep the deadly jail open, Mayor Adams must shut down Rikers once and for all.”


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