OPINION | COLUMNIST: Offering real refuge

Serious people should have a lot of questions about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's busing asylum seekers to New York, the most serious of which concern whether he and other governors sending migrants here, Chicago, D.C., Martha's Vineyard and elsewhere are breaking the law by misleading people and transferring them under false pretenses.

It would be very easy for Abbott to open lines of communication with Mayor Eric Adams, but he won't do that, because the sole point is scoring political points.

By scrambling to accommodate migrants in our overburdened shelter system and publicly complaining about the strain the inflow is putting on our right-to-shelter city, New York has yet to effectively respond to Abbott's cynical and immoral stunt. The city should not violate the decades-old settlement that requires anyone without a place to stay to have the option of city-provided shelter, nor should it abandon a commitment to helping these new arrivals.

The error here is treating this as a homelessness problem when it's not. The light at the end of the tunnel for local unhoused people is often assistance with a CityFHEPS housing voucher, a rental assistance supplement to help individuals and families find and keep housing.

Immigrants without clear legal status are ineligible for such vouchers, proof in and of itself that the homeless system's infrastructure is a bad match for a crisis that's not about the cost of housing or drug abuse or mental health, but about asylum seekers shipped by the hundreds from elsewhere.

Instead, the city should look to localities in border states that have over the years developed robust networks of volunteers who provide food, shelter and assistance to migrants. There are undoubtedly thousands of people in the five boroughs and its environs who would step up and welcome them with open arms.

Gov. Kathy Hochul should step in and do more to help coordinate an approach that can help some asylum seekers make their way elsewhere. Long Island and the city's suburbs can help take the burden off the five boroughs. Buffalo has over the years received thousands of refugees to its enormous benefit. This doesn't mean turning migrants away from city shelter, per se, but working to offer them more options, and if they do need to be placed in a taxpayer-provided bed, creatively clearing the bottlenecks at Bellevue's intake center.

As for the feds, their inaction or outright incompetence is what facilitates Abbott's actions. Instead of standing by and letting this play out, the administration should recommit to helping place and take asylum seekers where there's capacity across America. We can be both more humane and more efficient.