An unexpected second New Yorker joined City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli at a U.S. house hearing on the migrant crisis Wednesday: New York City Mayor Eric Adams – or his rhetoric at least.
While the mayor wasn’t among the three witnesses asked to testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Adams’ controversial remarks about the migrant issue’s potential to “destroy New York City” hung heavy over the hearing, which centered on the financial costs associated with the influx of new arrivals. Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines of Arizona and American Immigration Council Policy Director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick – the brother of former Rockland County state Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick – also testified in D.C. alongside Borelli.
In his opening remarks, Borelli cited the mayor’s words about destruction, adding “I’ll give him credit for being virtually the only elected official in his party to say out loud, repeatedly, and in public that the open border policies … have been an absolute disaster and the people of my city are paying for it.” Republican committee chair Mark Green repeatedly expressed a similar sentiment, saying that if there was some net positive to migrants’ arrival, “Mayor Adams in New York City, a Democrat, would not be screaming at the top of his lungs how this mass wave is destroying his city.” At one point in the hearing, House Republicans played a clip of Adams’ stark assertion during the Sept. 6 Upper West Side town hall.
“Let me tell you something New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to – I don’t see an ending to this,” Adams said in the widely circulated clip. “This issue will destroy New York City.”
The mayor’s provocative words have been in the spotlight for weeks now, sparking concerns from critics about the sentiment’s potential to fuel violence against the city’s newest arrivals or impact Democrats chances in upcoming elections while also fueling debate over what he actually meant. Similar to Wednesday’s hearing, many Republicans on both the city and national level have pounced on Adams’ remarks, using them to further their attacks on the Biden administration’s border policies. The mayor himself has for months urged the Biden administration to help the city handle asylum-seekers by sending additional funding and granting people expedited work permits. Unlike many Republicans, Adams hasn’t advocated for the closing of the border, though he has called for a “decompression strategy.”
Painting a dire picture of the ongoing arrival of tens of thousands of asylum-seekers, Borelli said he agrees that the influx has the “potential to really demolish New York City’s long-term financial future.” He said he believes President Joe Biden should “close the border” and give the city more funding to help manage the crisis, adding that another way he agrees with Adams is that other sanctuary cities should help pick up the tab.
While many of the Republican committee members’ questions for Borelli were about the financial and logistical burden imposed on the city, Rep. Dan Goldman didn’t hold back when it was his turn to speak. He criticized Borelli and others for fear-mongering about the arrival of migrants, emphasizing that immigrants have directly built New York City’s success.
Quoting a New York Times editorial from 1882 claiming that the children of Italian immigrants would grow up to “form the criminal class of this city,” Goldman pointed to Borelli’s membership in the New York City Council’s Italian Caucus today. “Would you agree with that assessment of Italians as forming the criminal class of New York City?” Goldman asked, to which Borelli responded he did not.
“You have been fear-mongering on this issue as have my colleagues on the other side of the aisle about the ‘criminals coming across the border,’ but you are aware are you not Mr. Borelli that the amount of crime from the migrants who have arrived in New York City is far lower than the average crime rate in the city?” Goldman continued.
His questions continued in a similar manner, centering on whether Borelli believes that potential solutions to the city’s financial strain could be found through things like more immigration judges to help expedite the backlog of asylum cases and reducing the 180-day waiting period for migrants to receive work authorizations – all Democratic legislative proposals, according to Goldman.
“New Yorkers know better,” Goldman said in closing. “We understand the contributions that immigrants have made to our economy, our city, the fabric of our country. As the home of Ellis Island and the State of Liberty, many immigrants have come through New York and made it the melting pot of the world to the great benefit of so many, including Mr. Borelli.”