NYC mayor visits border, asks for more federal help to shelter migrants
New York City Mayor Eric Adams traveled to the Texas border city of El Paso over the weekend to implore the federal government to provide additional funds and support to American cities receiving tens of thousands of migrants seeking refuge from economic crises and political tumult in Latin America.
During the trip, his first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border as mayor, Adams said cities like New York and El Paso were on the “front lines” of an unprecedented migrant crisis that recently prompted the Biden administration to adopt a new strategy designed to discourage illegal border crossings.
Adams, a Democrat who issued an emergency declaration in October over the migrant arrivals in New York, said cities across the U.S. are shouldering most of the operational and financial burden of accommodating migrants released from federal border custody.
“What is happening in Chicago right now, and New York, and Houston, and Los Angeles, and Washington, our cities are being undermined. And we don’t deserve this,” Adams said during a Sunday press conference. “Migrants don’t deserve this. And the people who live in these cities don’t deserve this.”
“We expect more from our national leaders to address this issue in a real way,” Adams continued.
The New York City mayor called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to “step up” and launch a nationwide operation to coordinate assistance and funding to cities and other local communities receiving migrants processed by U.S. border authorities.
New York City “cannot take more” migrants, Adams stressed, noting the depleted shelter space there. “We can’t.”
For the past few months, El Paso has struggled to handle a sharp increase in arrivals of migrants, mainly from crisis-stricken countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The Democratic-led Texas city has converted a convention center and two vacant middle schools into makeshift migrant housing facilities to alleviate overwhelmed city shelters. Many migrants have still found themselves sleeping on El Paso’s streets.
New York City, for its part, has also received tens of thousands of migrants in recent months who entered the U.S. along the southern border. Some of them traveled to the city with the help of volunteers or family members in the U.S. Others have been bused to New York by Texas’ Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been transporting migrants to Democratic-led cities to protest President Biden’s border policies.
For several months last year, El Paso city officials also sent dozens of buses of migrants to New York. But its operation was designed to reduce overcrowding in local shelters, not to send a political message.
Since last year, Adams has warned that New York would face dire fiscal and operational challenges without increased state and federal help to welcome migrants. The city has set up 74 shelters and four processing centers to accommodate the new arrivals, including at repurposed hotels. In all, New York has offered roughly 40,000 migrants shelter, food and other services, an effort city officials project will cost over $1 billion.
Last week, Adams told New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat, that the situation was “pushing New York City to the brink” and urged state officials to help shelter 500 migrants.
“We are at our breaking point,” Adams said. “Based off our projections, we anticipate being unable to continue sheltering arriving asylum seekers on our own and have submitted an emergency mutual aid request to the State of New York beginning this weekend.”
During his trip to El Paso on Saturday and Sunday, Adams met with local volunteers, shelter officials, migrants and city leaders, including Mayor Oscar Leeser, another Democrat who also asked for, and secured, assistance from the Biden administration to shelter, feed and transport arriving migrants.
On Sunday, Adams elicited cheers and applause from a group of migrants when he told them he would fight for their ability to work in the U.S. and fulfill the “American dream,” video of the encounter shows.
One of the main frustrations Adams has voiced is that migrants arriving in New York City can’t legally work because of a federal law that prevents them from obtaining work permits until after their asylum applications have been pending for several months. While he has asked the federal government to lift that requirement, it can only be changed by Congress, which has not passed a major immigration law since the 1990s.
In his remarks Sunday, Adams acknowledged that only Congress can offer a long-term plan to manage migration along the southern border. “Real, true immigration reform is going to come through the Senate, Congress and the White House,” he said.
Other Democrats have joined Adams in calling for additional federal action to help cities accommodate migrants who have been allowed by border officials to stay in the country while their asylum cases are adjudicated.
On Sunday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she “wholeheartedly” agreed with Adams’ call for increased federal support. While she expressed appreciation for the Biden administration’s efforts to deal with the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, she said additional steps needed to be taken to help address the “urgent needs” of migrants arriving in Chicago, where Texas state officials have also been busing migrants.
“Months and thousands of migrants later, we continue to strain under the challenge of how to accommodate the rise in asylum-seekers and the escalating associated costs, which have been left primarily to cities to manage,” Lightfoot wrote on Twitter.
The Biden administration earlier in this month unveiled its most comprehensive strategy yet to deal with the unprecedented number of migrant arrivals along the southern border. It announced it would expand expulsions of migrants who crossed into the U.S. illegally, while expanding opportunities for certain migrants to enter the country legally, including through a program for those with U.S.-based financial sponsors.
Biden administration officials have insisted the federal government has been assisting local communities receive migrants, including by issuing funding grants through a FEMA program.
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