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.