NEW YORK — A dozen or so House Democrats touring New York City’s central migrant intake center Friday found their remarks to reporters all but drowned out by protesters, a chaotic scene reflective of how fraught the crisis has become.
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adriano Espaillat and their colleagues visited Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hotel in the largest and most public show of congressional support thus far for migrant resources, such as more federal funding and expanded work authorization.
“As you can see, this is a contentious issue, but we are all Americans and we all believe in the American dream,” Espaillat said, barely audible above a din that featured persistent chants of “Close the border.”
“The American dream will not be bullied into submission,” he added.
The delegation that gathered Friday also included Reps. Jerry Nadler, Nydia Velázquez and Jamaal Bowman, as well as House Democrats with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus representing other states.
The Roosevelt Hotel was the scene of single adult migrants sleeping on the sidewalk in late July when beds couldn’t be made available to them.
Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have long called for funding from Washington and routes to get migrants working legally. And their pleas for federal intervention have become increasingly desperate with 60,000 migrants in city’s care overwhelming its infrastructure.
President Joe Biden has limited authority to expedite work permits, but Ocasio-Cortez urged more temporary protective status, or TPS, options — something that Biden can do unilaterally.
She said the House members on the scene were unified in their push for more aid for New York City.
Congress must approve more federal funding, and it would take congressional action to reform immigration law, which is not a priority under Republican House control.
Republicans, including Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, want Biden to “secure the border” first.
“I hope AOC and her Democrat colleagues got the message today that New Yorkers are fed up with President Biden’s open border policies that are wreaking havoc in their city,” Malliotakis said in a statement.
On Friday, Ocasio-Cortez, frequently the target of attacks from right-leaning demonstrators, could hardly be heard above the jeering, and she was forced to leave while her colleagues broke into smaller groups to speak with reporters.
The small but loud group of protesters waved signs discouraging migrant work permission, used a megaphone and lobbed curse words.
Velázquez made a reference to a federal government funding deadline that looms as the House Republican caucus remains deadlocked.
“Republicans want to end this crisis? We need to keep the government open,” she said.
Nadler said he supports funding for shelter services and other programs in a supplemental budget. Bowman called for additional resources to process asylum applications.
He gestured to the people shouting nearby.
“What’s going on around here with this small minority is just hateful rhetoric,” Bowman said. “They’re forgetting that their ancestors came here from other places. This is the land of the indigenous Native Americans.”
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