New York Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat on Friday said that for New York City to better manage the influx of migrants, cooler heads need to prevail.
Espaillat, an immigrant New Yorker, rebuffed Mayor Eric Adams’ comments Wednesday, where he said the issue would “destroy New York City,” but didn’t specify if he meant migrants themselves would bring upon destruction.
“I’m not gonna sugarcoat this, I don’t think they’re gonna destroy the city. I just don’t think that,” Espaillat told The Hill.
“So I would disagree on that one. If that’s what he meant, then we disagree on that.”
Many immigrant rights advocates and Democrats are biting their lip on Adams’s comments, hoping to avoid further inflaming an issue at the top of the Republican agenda.
The White House months ago broke with Adams over his treatment of the issue, unceremoniously dropping him as a campaign surrogate for President Biden in May.
The administration has also rewarded New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who has raised many of the same complaints as Adams, but in a more diplomatic tone.
Adams has also criticized Hochul over the issue.
While the issue is driving a wedge between Adams and many Democrats, Espaillat, a prominent advocate for immigrants in Congress, said it’s time to calm the waters.
“There’s a lot of frustration out there,” said Espaillat.
“Because this obviously has a fiscal impact on municipalities and states, but we’ve got to keep our cool and work together to ensure that we find a solution to this.”
Like many Democrats and advocates, Espaillat pointed to work permits as the low hanging fruit that could ease the fiscal pain felt by New York’s shelter system and social services.
“A work permit is not statutory, it’s regulatory. So why not make it that when you apply for asylum, you also apply simultaneously for the work permit and that will expedite work authorization?”
Espaillat noted the current work permit system is complex, and allows some migrants to apply for work permits quickly, while making others wait.
That complexity has even led to some migrants who are eligible for work permits to not apply, believing they are subject to waiting periods like some of their peers.
“I think he’s talking about funding and he’s, as I said, frustrated and we can’t let frustration get the better of us,” he said of Adams. “I think we need to work together on this, to make sure that we resolve it and I think we can, and this is not new.”
Espaillat also said people should see immigration as an opportunity.
“I think there’s a lot of promise there. I don’t understand why so many people are willing to abandon – to bolt out on the dream,” said Espaillat.
“I think that that’s exactly what we need in New York City. That drive, right? That energy, that innovativeness, that hunger, that will lift the city up. I think those migrants are going to take the city to another place.”
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