Rep. Rob Menendez joins tour of migrant center, calls for speeding up work permits
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 31: Hundreds of recently arrived migrants to New York City wait outside of the Roosevelt Hotel, which has been made into a reception center, as they try to secure temporary housing on July 31, 2023 in New York City. The migrants, many from Central America and Africa, have been sleeping on the streets or at other shelters as the city continues to struggle with the influx of migrants whose numbers have surged this spring and summer. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The federal government should be doing more to help the tens of thousands of migrants who have relocated to New York City in recent months, Rep. Rob Menendez said Friday after joining other members of Congress for a tour of the Manhattan hotel that has become a migrant relief center.
If the government sped up work authorizations for the migrants — a key request of New York City Mayor Eric Adams — it would help them find legal work and boost industries suffering from a shortage of workers, Menendez said.
“We have a fix. It’s at our doorstep. We just need to do it in a way that’s humane and processes people to get them started on their journey,” Menendez (D-08) said.
The Hudson County Democrat joined Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and other Democrats at the Roosevelt Hotel’s migrant intake center before speaking to reporters.
The visit was met with protestors who erupted in chants calling for the United States’ southern border to be closed and to “send them back,” referring to the migrants. A heckler with a megaphone shouted over Ocasio-Cortez when she spoke to reporters.
New York City has received over 110,000 migrants since spring 2022, with about 59,000 migrants remaining in the city, according to the New York Times. Asylum seekers must wait 180 days after filing their claims to be eligible to receive work authorizations.
The influx of migrants has become a headache for Adams, who said it will cost the city $12 billion by the next fiscal year and whose relationship with the White House has turned frosty over claims the Biden administration is not helping the city enough.
The controversy has seeped into New Jersey, where politicians have expressed opposition to a reported plan by federal officials to relocate some of the migrants to Atlantic City International Airport. The proposal has drawn opposition from local, state, and federal officials, including Gov. Phil Murphy.
On NJ Spotlight News Thursday, Murphy said the migrant crisis “sadly, is beyond us.” He blamed the federal government for not achieving comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform, while commending President Biden for doing a “remarkable job, both on domestic policy … and foreign relations.”
Menendez didn’t say Friday whether he’d support relocating migrants to New Jersey, but said Republicans are “sowing discord and chaos.” Democrats have criticized the GOP governors of Florida and Texas for putting migrants on buses and sending them to New York City.
Menendez said it’s clear that New York City is dealing with what is “obviously a complicated process” while also navigating a “broken immigration system.”
“We need to take a whole government approach, and address it as Republicans and Democrats to have an American solution,” he said. “If we do that, the rhetoric will turn down.”
Menendez, who comes from an immigrant family, also urged people to have compassion for the migrants who ended up in New York City.
“Think about what the journey they’ve had to have to get through this point. Think about the fact that they would rather trust a cartel than their own government … to give themselves a chance,” he said.
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