The Biden administration’s response to calls from Mayor Eric Adams to provide federal funding and work permits for new migrants was deemed inadequate and got a cool reception from City Hall Monday.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas penned letters to both Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday. In the missives, which were obtained by amNewYork Metro and first reported by Politico New York, Mayorkas defended the administration’s handling of the crisis thus far in response to criticisms from Adams and Hochul that it hasn’t provided enough resources for over 100,000 migrants in the city.
To illustrate the federal support, Mayorkas pointed to a hangar at John F. Kennedy Airport the feds have allowed the city to use as a migrant shelter and a tentative deal to stand up another shelter at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field. He also said DHS is recommending 11 new sites the city and state can utilize for additional shelters.
Additionally, Mayorkas said the Adams administration’s migrant influx response has been fallen short in several ways, which his office determined after a week-long assessment of the city’s operations earlier this month.
“The structural issues include governance and organization of the migrant operations, including issues of authority, structure, personnel, and information flow,” he wrote. “The operational issues include the subjects of data collection, planning, case management, communications, and other aspects of day-to-day operations.”
But City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamelak-Altus, in a statement, said that while the administration appreciates the newly recommended sites, the feds are still failing to deliver on its core asks.
“Our requests from the federal government remain the same, and quite frankly, unaddressed,” Mamelak-Altus said. “We continue to call on the Biden administration to take the lead in implementing a decompression strategy at the border, expedite pathways to work authorizations for asylum seekers, to declare a state of emergency facilitating swift allocation of federal funds to address our pressing challenges, and to provide more funding to match the reality of the course on the ground. Today’s conversation also did not address the situation on the ground where thousands of asylum seekers continue to arrive in our city with no end in sight.”
City Hall also pointed out that it has already opened over 200 emergency migrant shelters across the city and has reviewed more than 3,000 potential sites for opening additional facilities, 2,800 of which were deemed to be unsuitable.
In the letter, Mayorkas did note the Biden administration is “exploring all options available” to speed up the processing of work permits, like improving efficiency, increasing staffing levels and making technological improvements to expedite casework. But, he said, they must work within “statutory constraints” that require migrants to wait 180 days after applying for asylum in order to obtain work permits.
The letters come as finger-pointing between the three branches of government has reached an inflection point.
Last week Hochul gave a rare address on the continuing tide of new arrivals, laying blame squarely at the feet of the White House and Congress.
“The reality is we’ve managed thus far without substantive support from Washington,” Hochul said during the address. “And despite the fact that this is a national, indeed an inherently federal issue. But New York has shouldered this burden for far too long.”
Avi Small, the governor’s press secretary, echoed that sentiment in a Monday statement.
“As Governor Hochul has repeatedly said, this crisis will only abate once the federal government takes action on work authorization that allows migrants to be resettled permanently, and we are grateful to the Department of Homeland Security for today’s informative briefing,” Small said.
The governor’s office noted that many of the sites recommended by the feds so far have been outside the five boroughs, where most migrants have landed. Hochul said during her speech that she won’t force counties outside the city to shelter new arrivals.
Hochul also sent a letter to President Biden requesting more expedited work authorizations, directing more funding to the city and state to reimburse costs incurred by the influx and clearance to utilize more federally-owned land within the state as migrant shelters. The day before, Adams’ office sent a letter to Hochul, demanding that the state chip in more funding and compel upstate counties resistant to housing migrants to take some in.
In response to the blame-deflecting letters, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless called for all three levels of government to rise above recent “finger-pointing” and come up with solutions to the crisis together.
“As tens of thousands of asylum seekers and other new arrivals continue to come to New York seeking help on their path to stability, we need all three levels of government working cooperatively to address the many challenges, rather than engaging in endless finger-pointing in the press,” they said. “The situation is going to continue to get more dire, and real solutions are needed immediately.”