Albany Agenda

Hochul ignores migrants in 2024 State of the State speech

Hochul said she would address the migrant issue during a budget speech next week but otherwise did not mention it.

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers the 2024 State of the State address in the Assembly chamber.

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers the 2024 State of the State address in the Assembly chamber. Mike Groll, Don Pollard, Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

The ongoing arrival of asylum-seekers may be front of mind for New York City Mayor Eric Adams in the new year, but the issue barely came up during Gov. Kathy Hochul’s annual State of the State speech on Tuesday.

There’s nothing in the governor’s State of the State book for 2024 that suggests she’s planning any long-term policy solutions in terms of the ongoing migrant crisis. Throughout the 204 proposals outlined in the book, the only mention of the word “migrant” or “immigrant” is a short section about the state giving grants to start-up founders who are immigrants.

Hochul delivered her State of the State address on the same day that New York City began evicting the first wave of migrant families that had reached the 60-day limit on how long they are allowed to stay in the shelter system before needing to reapply for a new placement.

The speech, delivered from the New York State Capitol in Albany, didn’t include any proposals related to the migrant crisis, either. She only referenced the issue once, when she said she would address it along with some of the state’s other fiscal issues during a budget speech on Jan. 16. Politico New York reported that Adams plans to release his own preliminary budget on the same day. It remains to be seen whether the two speeches’ proposals for addressing the migrant crisis will conflict with or complement one another.

“We eagerly await Governor Hochul’s budget address next week, where we’re hoping to hear details on how New York state will offer additional financial support to its largest city and the heart of the nation’s economy as we continue to manage the asylum-seeker crisis,” Adams said in a statement following her address. 

When asked whether he was disappointed by Hochul’s lack of acknowledgement about the impact the arrival of migrants is having on New York City, Adams said he is not disappointed as they are in agreement and she intends to talk about it next week. “We both agree this is a national problem, the national government must deal with this issue, but it’s in our laps now,” Adams said.

New York City has largely been on its own as it’s dealt with an influx of asylum-seekers. Since spring 2022, the city has processed more than 160,000 migrants, and roughly 68,000 of them still remain in city shelters. Adams has warned over and over again that the city is running out of space and funds to support new arrivals, and he has criticized the federal government for not taking responsibility for what he’s described as a “national crisis.” Despite the strain on the city’s finances, he and Hochul have for the most part been aligned on policy responses to the crisis, like working to limit the city’s right to shelter mandate.

With Republicans using the migrant crisis to attack Democrats ahead of the 2024 elections, Hochul has been cautious about wading into such a politically volatile issue. She declared a state of emergency over the crisis in May 2023, and the state has earmarked nearly $2 billion to reimburse local governments for the cost of providing services to migrants. The state Legislature has pledged to pass another round of financial assistance this year. Still, Hochul has gotten a lot of flak, particularly over her lack of involvement in mediating disputes and facilitating statewide cooperation as the city has looked to send migrants to other parts of the state.

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, pointed out the lack of mention of migrants in Hochul’s speech and urged her to be an advocate for all New Yorkers.

“Governor Hochul shared a long list of challenges that New Yorkers face in accessing housing, education, and healthcare – but her list of solutions were short and excluded the specific needs of immigrant New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. “We must make investments in legal services, tax credits for working families, and housing vouchers, while ensuring language accessibility for newer initiatives.”

Other advocacy groups expressed similar frustrations.

“To date, Albany has failed to meaningfully aid the city with its legal and moral obligation to provide shelter to all who seek it,” the Legal Aid Society said in a statement. “With more new arrivals coming to New York daily, lawmakers must appropriate the funds and resources needed for the Adams Administration to meet this moment and safeguard our clients’ safety and well-being.”