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Hochul calls on Biden for federal response to migrant influx

Alexander Zúñiga and Vanesa Encarnación arrived in the U.S. July 17, telling WAMC they left their children behind in Ecuador.
Dave Lucas
Super8 guests Alexander Zúñiga and Vanesa Encarnación arrived in the U.S. July 17, telling WAMC they left their children behind in Ecuador.

As New York Governor Kathy Hochul and the White House work out the details of a shelter in New York City for migrants, the governor made a sweeping new request today.

Hochul wrote to President Biden asking the administration to send more resources to New York and expedite work authorizations for asylum seekers. The Democrat held what was billed as an address to New Yorkers Thursday.  

“I do believe we have a moral imperative to help these new arrivals. I'm grateful to the counties that have welcomed and supported the migrants, and we will continue to partner with them,” Hochul said. “But 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. That's exactly why I need to talk to you today. This crisis originated with the federal government, and it must be resolved through the federal government.”

Hochul’s letter outlines four requests:  

-“Significant” financial assistance for New York City and New York state. That request comes after Mayor Eric Adams projected a $12 billion budget impact from handling the 100,000 migrants who have arrived there; the state has committed $1.5 billion and Hochul says that could rise to $4.5 billion next year on the current trajectory  

-More shelters on federal property  

-Reimbursement for the cost to the state of deploying the National Guard; Hochul says the state is spending $22 million a month to deploy nearly 2,000 Guard members for humanitarian operations  

-And the expedited work authorizations for asylum seekers. To that end, Hochul says the state Department of Labor will work to connect asylum seekers to jobs so they can begin working as soon as federal approvals are obtained. The state is opening a portal enabling businesses to say they would welcome such employees.  

Hochul also blamed Congress for not tackling immigration reform.  

“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 towards 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.”

Jackie Bray is the State Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner. She was asked whether it’s safe to house so many migrants in temporary shelters.  

“By and large, the vast, vast, vast majority who are here are here to be law abiding, productive members of New York City and New York state. And they are working very hard to provide for themselves and their families,” Bray said.” There have obviously been a couple of high profile incidents that law enforcement engaged on and took appropriate action. But I do not believe that New Yorkers need worry about the safety or security of having new Americans as their neighbors.”

Hochul says she won't require counties outside of New York City to accept newly arrived migrants. Saying its services are strained, New York City has bussed migrants upstate, leading to local opposition and emergency declarations. But the governor says the "right to shelter" mandate is unique to New York City.  

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,” she said.  

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, spoke with reporters at the state fair in Syracuse Thursday. He says the state is doing the best it can.  

“These are humanitarian situations. And I don't think we should be playing politics with it,” he said. “And also, as much as it's focused on the state right now, you know, immigration, migrants, asylum seekers, that's all under the federal government's jurisdiction. And so we really need the federal government to step up and be helpful to us.”

The White House says it will continue to coordinate with the city and the state, and once again called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. In a statement, a White House spokesperson said:  

“Since the first day of his Administration, President Biden has called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Without Congressional action, this Administration has been working to build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system and has worked to identify ways to improve efficiencies and maximize the resources the federal government can provide to communities across the country to support the flow of migrants. Recently, Senior Advisor to the President Tom Perez was in New York to continue the close coordination with our state and city partners. We will continue to partner with communities across the country to ensure they can received the support they need. Only Congress can provide additional funding for these efforts, which this Administration has already requested, and only Congress can fix the broken immigration system.”

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.