Mayor Eric Adams rallied with an array of elected officials, labor groups and business leaders in Foley Square on Thursday to boost his demand for President Biden to speed up the approval of work permits for tens of thousands of migrants.
The mayor and other speakers were also interrupted several times throughout the rally by counter protesters shouting anti-immigrant messages.
Adams stood shoulder-to-shoulder with lawmakers representing a broad swath of political views within the Democratic Party, from close allies like Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar (Queens), to progressives he often clashes with like city Comptroller Brad Lander. Also present were powerful labor unions such as 32BJ SEIU and the Hotel Trades Council, as well as business groups like the New York Hospitality Alliance.
They all broadcasted the same message: the Biden administration must take executive action to let migrants work legally — a message that has so far gone unanswered.
“It is time to stop this madness and allow capable, able, willing and ready people to work, to contribute to our society and have a place in the American Dream,” Adams said. “Let’s let them work.”
Letting migrants work legally is vital, Adams has long argued, because it would break their dependence on the city for shelter, food and other essentials. The city is currently providing for nearly 60,000 migrants, which the Adams administration says is putting an immense strain on its resources and bears a price tag that could balloon to $12 billion by 2025.
Biden can use his executive authority immediately to let migrants work, Adams says, without them having to sit through the legally mandated waiting period of 180 days after filing an asylum claim — something only a small percentage of new arrivals have done. One of those steps is renewing Temporary Protected Status for Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Sudan and several other countries.
In his own remarks, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams pushed back against the xenophobic notion that new arrivals would be taking jobs away from longtime New Yorkers.
“The work that we’re talking about is not taking jobs from long term Americans,” Williams said. “They are jobs that industries cannot fill right now … We have people who want to work and people who want to hire them.”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York Hospitality Alliance, said there are 10,000 jobs available in the city’s restaurant industry “right now.”
“These are jobs that fuel our small businesses, that create tax revenue to fund all of our essential services,” Rigie said. “They want to work, restaurants want to hire folks, provide opportunity. We need the Biden administration, the federal government, to take action now.”
At one point, Adams was interrupted by an anti-immigrant protester shouting “close the border, you failed New Yorkers Eric Adams, close the border.” In response, the mayor said those in the crowd must “stay focused.”
“Look how big this crowd is, don’t let one fool disrupt our focus,” he said. “Stay focused, stay disciplined. Don’t allow the loudest to give you the impression that that is what we feel.”
One protester shouting expletives at Adams, identified by a reporter as Jonathan David Rinaldi, is a Republican running for the eastern Queens City Council seat currently held by James Gennaro (D). amNewYork Metro observed Rinaldi getting into a shouting match with another man in the audience as the aspiring politician was escorted away by police officers.
Adams also took the opportunity to hit back at President Biden’s administration, after it sent a letter earlier this week criticizing the city’s response to the influx without offering additional resources, saying it has to step off the sidelines and “get on the field.”
“Don’t critique what we’ve done,” he said at the rally. “Don’t tell us how we could have done it better. Don’t sit in the bleachers and be a detached spectator in this full-contact sport called asylum seekers. Get on the field and fight this battle with us.”
In the letter, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Adams’ management of the influx has been riddled with both “structural and operational” issues. Those include problems with authority, structure, personnel, information flow, planning, case management, communications and other parts of day-to-day operations.
At the same time, Mayorkas argued the ability to grant work permits more quickly lies with a divided Congress and not the White House.
The mayor also took aim at Governor Kathy Hochul for refusing to force counties outside the five boroughs from sheltering some of the migrants currently in the city.
“All of us in the state should participate in this issue,” Adams said. “New York City makes up 0.5% of the land mass, yet we have 99.5% of the asylum seekers here. The solution is not just New York City, the solution is New York State and the United States.”
Last week during a live address on the crisis, Hochul said she doesn’t believe she can legally compel other parts of the state to shelter new arrivals and “will not” do so.
The governor, following a two-hour meeting with top White House officials in the West Wing on Wednesday, announced the Biden administration has committed resources to help identify “thousands” of migrants in New York who are eligible for work permits but have not yet applied.
“As New Yorkers know, securing expedited work authorization for asylum seekers and migrants has been and remains my top priority,” Hochul said in a statement. “It is the only way to help asylum seekers become self-sustaining, so they can move into permanent housing. I am especially pleased that the federal government has agreed to provide personnel, data, and resources to identify the thousands of individuals in New York who are already eligible, but have not yet applied, for work authorization.”