Hochul: No asylum seekers will be forced on communities
ALBANY — The federal government has not been doing its share to address the growing number of migrants seeking aid and shelter in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday, while also pledging that upstate communities will not be asked to house people they do not want to host.
In remarks livestreamed from the Capitol on the second anniversary of her first swearing-in as the state’s executive, Hochul announced that she had sent a letter to President Joe Biden, requesting executive action to help place and protect the migrants bused to New York from the southern border.
“The reality is, we’ve managed thus far without substantive support from Washington, and despite the fact that this is a national, indeed an inherently federal, issue,” she said. “But New York has shouldered this burden for far too long.”
The governor said that New York has hosted more than 100,000 asylum seekers over the last year, most of them arriving by bus at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in downtown Manhattan. It has cost billions, she said.
“The city has been helped by the state to manage this, in partnership with our state legislature,” she said. “And in our budget, we allocated over $1 billion, now upwards of $1.5 billion, for providing shelter, National Guard, public health, transit, case management and legal services to asylum seekers, especially the housing.”
Since asylum seekers started arriving in New York, much of the onus to care for them and address ground-level policies for housing, feeding, clothing and schooling families of asylum-seekers has fallen to New York City and the administration of Mayor Eric Adams. The mayor has called for more assistance from the state, and has pushed to force upstate counties to host more migrants.
In a statement, North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik called providing such services for the migrants “shameful” and called on Congress to back a Republican-proposed border plan.
“The quickest way for New York to end our illegal immigration crisis and for America to once again secure our borders is for Senate Democrats to pass and for President Biden to sign into law House Republicans’ Secure the Border Act of 2023,” Stefanik said. “This bill would force the Biden Administration to restart construction of the border wall, end catch and release, and deploy personnel and resources to the Southern and Northern Border.”
Rumors of placements at upstate motels and hotels have largely led to local opposition and legal challenges, including a recent court injunction in Jefferson County blocking potential migrant placements in Carthage. A Long Island-based hotelier recently made efforts to bring migrant residents to his failing hotel in Massena, after nearly losing the property in a county foreclosure for unpaid taxes, but said city officials had failed to express interest in the plan.
Hochul said it’s New York’s tradition and duty to do what it can to protect people seeking shelter in its border, hearkening back to Ellis Island. She also referenced the 1981 compact between New York City and the Coalition for the Homeless, agreeing that the city would provide shelter to anyone who sought it there.
The governor said that agreement is for New York City alone.
“This is an agreement that does not apply to the state’s other 57 counties, which is one of the reasons we cannot and will not force other parts of our state to shelter migrants, nor are we going to be asking these migrants to move to other parts of the state against their will,” she said.
She thanked the counties that have willingly welcomed migrants into their borders, and said the state will continue to support their partnership.
The governor criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has led the push to bus asylum-seeking migrants from the southern border to what he terms “sanctuary cities.” The Texas governor has argued that it’s unfair to ask Texas to host all of the migrants by itself.
Hochul said there is little by way of a state solution to the influx of asylum seekers, however.
“To level with New Yorkers, bearing much needed changes at the border, there does not appear to be a solution to this federal problem anytime soon,” Hochul said.
“This crisis originated with the federal government, and it must be resolved through the federal government,” she added.
“The borders and decisions about who can work are solely determined by the federal government.”
In her letter, Hochul called on the Biden administration to provide expedited work authorization for the asylum seekers, so they can begin generating an income in New York and stop relying solely on public assistance. She also asked that the president provide financial support for housing vouchers, schooling, health care, legal services, case management and shelters, and federal resources to expand temporary shelters.
The governor also asked for federal reimbursement for the cost of the New York National Guard stationed at migrant shelters for more than a year now. Hochul said that she has hope that the influx of migrants to New York, if they can be authorized to work, may solve the worker shortage she said she has come across in jobs and industries statewide.
“We have countless unfilled jobs that are begging for someone to just take them, so we need to do something,” Hochul said.
She announced that the state Department of Labor will launch a program in September to immediately place asylum seekers in jobs as soon as they are legally able to work, and is asking the department to actively solicit employers for potential job placements.
The governor also called on Congress to make meaningful changes to national immigration policies, and had a message for the voters who elect the state’s congressional representatives.
“If you’re represented by a Republican, please ask them to stop politicizing people’s lives, stop fighting President Biden’s comprehensive, smart solutions, and work together toward solving this,” she said.
“If you’re represented by a Democrat, ask them to support my plan for more engagement and direct support from the administration.”