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Mayor Eric Adams calls for national response to asylum seeker crisis at U.S. Conference of Mayors

Mayor Adams focuses on migrant crisis at Conference of Mayors
Mayor Adams focuses on migrant crisis at Conference of Mayors 02:36

WASHINGTON -- The asylum seeker crisis took center stage at the annual Mayors Conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Mayor Eric Adams attended and called for sweeping reforms when it comes to immigration and asylum seekers, even floating the idea, once again, that the city could house migrants on cruise ships.

The mayor started his speech at the U.S. Conference of Mayors on a light note, responding to a joke from Miami's mayor about people leaving New York.

"We're going to steal back some of the folks who moved to Miami," Adams said.

But he quickly pivoted to people already arriving in the Big Apple, the mayor says 40,000 since last spring.

"The asylum seeker crisis," Adams said.

RELATED STORY: Mayor Eric Adams departs El Paso, Texas, after getting first-hand look at migrant crisis

In his speech to mayors from across the country, Adams explained how he'd just visited the southern border.

"What I saw was not a state problem or city problem, it is a national problem," he said.

He called on FEMA to create a system to "fairly distribute newcomers regionally," to alleviate the influx in cities like New York.

He also urged the federal government to expedite work authorization for asylum seekers.

William Gualotuna says he traveled from Ecuador through the Darien Gap with his young son, and when they arrived in Texas, they explained they wanted to go to New York.

"I would tell all the immigrants that are crossing not to come," Gualotuna said in Spanish, "because life here is a bit complicated, because there's no work, and it's very hard."

RELATED STORY: Mayor Eric Adams says migrants still welcome in NYC, but hopes some will go to other parts of the state

Gualotuna says people here have given him contacts to look for jobs.

"But they tell me no," he said in Spanish, "because they are full."

The mayor said in a Thursday morning interview with Politico that the city shelter system is also full.

"If it means using cruise ships, if it means finding space on state land, in my conversation with the governor, we're going to continue to pivot and shift to address the influx of migrants," Adams said.

Both the asylum seekers CBS2 spoke to say they fled Ecuador due to safety concerns. They're happy with the food and shelter at the hotel the city placed them in, but they're frustrated that they're not working.

Asylum seekers can apply for a work permit after about five months, but with how crowded the system is, even that is not so easy. If you manage to get something called humanitarian parole, you'll be eligible to work sooner.

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