New York, once the gateway to the United States through Ellis Island and a city built by immigrants, is full, according to the mayor -- but migrants seeking a better life continue to arrive by the hundreds.
Dozens of asylum seekers, mainly from West Africa, have been sleeping on sidewalks outside a Manhattan hotel this week, waiting to be processed at a makeshift center following perilous journeys fleeing violence and poverty.
They are seeking shelter in the Big Apple two weeks after Mayor Eric Adams said the city had no more space, following an influx of migrants that has stretched services to their breaking point.
"There is no more room," Adams reiterated on Monday. And it's "not going to get better," he added.
His comments in late July encouraging migrants to go to other cities sparked accusations that he was violating the city's right-to-shelter laws and betraying the spirit of New York, as symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, which in years gone by welcomed new arrivals by sea.
Abdoullahi Diallo was among those who waited outside the Roosevelt Hotel on Tuesday after traveling for two weeks from his native Mauritania, first to Turkey, then Nicaragua, before crossing the Mexican border into the United States.
The journey cost him $8,000 and he undertook it in search of "democracy" and "respect," the 25-year-old told AFP.
Others seeking temporary accommodation were from Senegal. Some said they had slept on cardboard in storefronts for five days waiting to be accommodated.
Volunteers distributed food and water and during a mini heatwave last week made air-conditioned minibuses available to them.
Since April last year, more than 93,000 migrants, mostly from Central and South America, have arrived in New York, which is required by law to offer free housing to anyone who requests it.
The influx has come as Republican-led states such as Texas have transported migrants to Democratic-run areas to protest President Joe Biden's immigration policies.
Almost 106,000 people, including some 54,000 migrants, currently live in New York City's care, either in shelters or hotels, according to officials.
Last month, Adams announced that authorities would hand out flyers at the US-Mexican border saying there was "no guarantee" they would receive shelter in New York and that they should "please consider" another city.
- 'We've suffered' -
Adams has met with federal authorities to try to find a solution, which, according to him, includes more border controls, a state of emergency and federal aid to deal with the immigration wave.
He also wants federal authorities to speed up the approval of work permits for new arrivals.
"There's nothing more anti-American than you can't work," Adams added.
New York City has long been a sanctuary city for migrants but Adams, a Democrat, has been gradually trying to restrict the number of new arrivals.
His administration now gives priority to families with young children when granting free housing, while single men will have to reapply for shelter after 60 days.
"Our compassion is infinite. Our space is not," a senior official at the agency that operates much of the emergency housing for migrants said recently.
Adams has blamed the federal and state governments for not providing enough assistance.
But city comptroller Brad Lander has accused him of undermining "the defining role of New York as a beacon of promise, inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty."
For Diallo, he just wants the means to support himself.
"We've crossed a lot of countries to get here. We've suffered. We've come here because we trust this country. We trust the United States," he said.