OpEd: The President Dithers, Our Region Pays The Bills

A town of Newburgh, N.Y., police vehicle is parked outside as security and staff personnel mill about The Crossroads Hotel where two busloads of migrants arrived hours earlier, May 11, 2023, in Newburgh, N.Y., in Orange County. New York City sued nearly half the state’s counties Wednesday, June 7, over their attempts to keep out international migrants, the latest escalation in an ongoing battle between city officials and local leaders. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

One thing is clear in the migrant crisis  confronting our region – immigration is a  federal responsibility.  

But as we have painfully learned in the last  two years, New York City and the region  have been forced to bear the human and  financial costs of the federal government’s  failure to act.  

We saw in the 2022 Congressional  elections how, while most of the country  turned to Democrats, Republicans in New  York racked up wins because of concerns  over migrants, along with so-called  progressive criminal justice reforms.  There is a clear and unequivocal  perception that the Republican Party is  attempting to avoid this crisis.  

Mayor Eric Adams, forced to foot the  multi-billion dollar-bill for migrants he  played no role in bringing to New York,  has been loudly complaining about  President Biden’s refusal, or inability  because of Congressional gridlock, to  defray those costs. That has become a  major roadblock to the President’s  

re-election and the city’s fiscal stability. The mayor has tried to fight back, filing  lawsuits to force fiscal pain onto  companies whose migrant-carrying buses  were chartered by a cynical Texas  governor. The companies instead have  begun dropping migrants across in New  Jersey, where local authorities put them on  trans-Hudson commuter trains to the city. The mayor has just lowered the anticipated  cost of caring for the migrants, in part  because Governor Hochul stepped up to  add more than a billion dollars to her  proposed budget to help cope with this  crisis. But the federal government’s  checkbook has remained closed.  That has political costs for Democrats,  fiscal costs for New York taxpayers, and  human costs for migrants who are trying to  give their families the same advantages  that drew our ancestors here.  

It should go without saying that, except for  Indigenous people here when the first  Europeans arrived, we are all immigrants  or their descendants. It is not hyperbole to say that racist rhetoric about recent  immigrants “poisoning our blood” carry  echoes of the lead-up to the Nazi takeover  in Germany in the 1930s.  

We have to look for real solutions, not just  chanting “secure the border.” Tom Suozzi,  seeking to return to Congress representing  Long Island, has proposed a sensible  compromise calling for closing the routes  used by migrants to illegally enter the  country, while creating a path to  citizenship for those who follow the rules  and are already here.  

Congressional leaders must work with  President Biden, instead of trying to score  political points by transporting a crisis on  our southern border to the streets of New  York.

Howard Fensterman is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Abrams Fensterman LLP, based in Lake Success.