Biden Administration Criticizes New York for Issues with Migrant Influx

The Biden administration pushed back at criticism that it hasn’t done enough to help New York address its migrant crisis. It cited two dozen areas where the city can strengthen its migrant operations.

Two letters were sent by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to Mayor of New York City Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul Monday in response to the city and state’s concerns over not getting additional help from the federal government. 

Mayorkas mentioned operational and structural issues found during a week-long assessment of the city’s operations beginning on August 7. Still, they didn’t give further specifics, saying the recommendations would be shared with the city.

“The structural issues include governance and organization of the migrant operations, including issues of authority, structure, personnel, and information flow,” wrote Mayorkas. “The operational issues include the subjects of data collection, planning, case management, communications, and other aspects of day-to-day operations.”

An official familiar with the recommendations made to the city said it includes better communication with migrants, improving data collection at intake, and bolstering information for the migrants regarding their ability to apply for work authorization and the need to apply for asylum.

“We are hopeful that our recommendations will equip the city to take additional steps to improve the migrant operations and maximize the value of our continued partnership and your support,” added Mayorkas.

 The letters come after Hochul said the crisis “originated with the federal government, and it must be resolved with the federal government.”

In an address and a letter to the Biden administration, Gov. Hochul requested they identify federally owned land and sites that can be used as temporary shelters for around 100,000 asylum-seekers who landed in New York City this year. 

In response, Mayorkas said the Biden administration provided access to a hangar at John F. Kennedy Airport and identified 11 federal sites across the state to house migrants while the city faces an influx of 100,000 asylum-seekers that have strained city services over the past year. 

“We look forward to hearing from the city and state on the viability of these sites,” said Mayorkas in his letter to Hochul. 

Additionally, he pointed to a temporary use lease of Floyd Bennett Field to house migrants. Mayorkas said a lease was sent to the state and city on August 21, by the Department of the Interior and a team has been discussing the lease in person. 

 “DOI seeks to finalize that lease as soon as you are ready,” said Mayorkas. 

A spokesperson for the governor, Avi Small, said that many of the sites the federal government proposed have been far away from New York City, where migrants are currently located. 

Small noted the state is ready to move forward with the lease for Floyd Bennett Field, but referred to City Hall as to why it has yet to be signed. 

“As Governor Hochul has repeatedly said, this crisis will only abate once the federal government takes action on work authorization and allows migrants to be resettled permanently, and we look forward to learning to be resettled permanently, and we look forward to learning additional details from the Department of Homeland Security during today’s briefing,” said Small.

For the structural and operational concerns, Small referred to a letter from Hochul’s attorney sent out earlier this month that details concerns with the city’s efforts.

NYC says it is pleased to see the federal government more involved

For its part, the city said it was pleased to see the federal government more involved in its plight.

“But New Yorkers deserve the facts, so let’s be clear: Our requests from the federal government remain the same, and quite frankly, unaddressed,” said Kayla Mamelek, Adams spokesperson, in a statement.

Among some requests included are, “a decompression strategy at the border,” the declaration of a state of emergency to get more federal aid to the city, expedited work authorizations for asylum-seekers, which has spent $1.7 billion on services and programs. The city said it has already opened over 200 sites, but a review found that 2,800 were not useable as shelters. 

“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,” added Mamelak.

Mayorkas said that his department knows the need to issue work authorization promptly and is considering making changes to make the process faster. However, he did note there are statutory constraints that hinder the efforts. 

A White House official speaking anonymously said a specific statutory constraint holding up the process is the 150-day waiting period required before asylum-seekers can apply for a work permit. This is in addition to 30 days of waiting before they can receive an employment authorization document.

“We are exploring all options available to improve operational efficiency, including through additional staffing and technology improvements to streamline case processing, as well as improved methods of communicating information about the employment authorization process with noncitizens,” said Mayorkas.