Biden offers NYC help in migrant crisis, grants nearly half-million Venezuelans protection

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Biden offers NYC help in migrant crisis, grants protection to Venezuelans
Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams applauded the Biden administration's move to grant protection to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans. CeFaan Kim has more.

MIDLAND BEACH, Staten Island (WABC) -- As more than 115,000 migrants arrived in New York City over the past year after crossing the border from Mexico, Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul begged President Joe Biden for one thing, above all others, to ease the crisis: "Let them work," both Democrats have said repeatedly in speeches and interviews.

Increasingly impatient leaders of Biden's party in other cities and states hammered the same message over the last month, saying the administration must make it easier for migrants to get work authorization quickly, which would allow them to pay for food and housing.

The Biden administration took one step toward granting that demand Wednesday, extending a temporary legal status to an estimated 472,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. that will make it easier for them to get work permits.

Governor Hochul, who met with President Joe Biden on Tuesday, said she's "grateful the federal government has acted so speedily to grant one of our top priorities."

She said the state of New York is prepared to immediately begin the process of signing people up for work authorization and get them jobs.

A speeding up of the work authorization process is just one of several key items that Hochul has asked the federal government for, in addition to more funding and more federal sites to house migrants.

Mayor Adams also released a statement, thanking the president for the move.

"More than 116,000 asylum seekers have come to New York City since last spring in search of the American Dream," he said. "Our administration and our partners across the city have led the calls to 'Let Them Work,' so I want to thank President Biden for hearing our entire coalition, including our hard-working congressional delegation, and taking this important step that will bring hope to the thousands of Venezuelan asylum seekers currently in our care who will now be immediately eligible for Temporary Protected Status."

Those steps pleased Hochul and Adams, but both hoped the administration would also extend Temporary Protected Status to migrants from countries besides Venezuela. That designation is most commonly given to places where there is an armed conflict or natural disaster.

Adams spoke with Eyewitness News anchor Bill Ritter about the president's actions, and why he didn't include people other than Venezuelans.

"I'm hoping that this is the start of looking at all of the countries that are coming into New York City and other municipalities," Adams said.

The move affects roughly 15,000 of the 60,000 asylum seekers currently in the city's care.

The new developments in the ongoing border crisis come a day after protesters flooded the street outside a former Midland Beach senior living facility Tuesday night, temporarily blocking a bus carrying 20 asylum seekers, after local leaders said they learned it was slated to house the city's latest migrant shelter.

Demonstrators gathered in front of an MTA bus in front of the former Island Shores Beach building. The 288-bed facility was put up for sale last year and residents have been protesting for several weeks, ever since rumors of it becoming migrant housing began swirling.

Officials say 10 people were arrested - that includes nine charged with disorderly conduct and a 48-year-old man was charged for allegedly assaulting an officer who was trying to make an arrest.

Some Staten Island community members say officers were aggressive, and that they were trying to suppress their right to protest.

"They arrested me. I don't know why, for no reason," said one protestor who did not want to be named.

Protesters crowded around an MTA bus at a former senior living facility that is set to become migrant housing. Janice Yu has more.

"As I told them, they don't have enough handcuffs, they don't have enough cops, they don't have enough cars. We're going to be out here 24/7, 365, and the illegals are not going to want to come here. They should stay in Manhattan," Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, said.

These protests are not new to the Staten Island community. Last month, residents showed their frustration over the city's decision to house migrants at the former St. John Villa Academy.

Mayor Eric Adams reacted to the outrage on Wednesday.

"What we saw on Staten Island last night where people are banging and using derogatory terms to identify people based on their ethnicity. That is not who we are as a city," Adams said.

Governor Hochul echoed those sentiments, stating, "I think it's very un-New York like. People need to examine their own hearts, where their families came from."

Meanwhile, in Washington, the City Council's top Republican, testified before a House committee on the migrant crisis on Wednesday, and complimented the mayor.

"I give him credit for being virtually the only elected official in his own party to say out loud repeatedly and in public that the open border policies of this White House, Secretary Mayorkas, and the federal agencies under their control have been an absolute disaster for New York," City Councilman Joseph Borelli said.

In New York City, officials are also considering changing how long single adult asylum seekers can stay in shelters. It could shift from 60 days to 30.

The city is also considering putting a 60-day restriction on how long families with children are allowed to stay in a shelter. Right now, they are allowed to stay as long as they need.

A spokesperson with the Department of Social Services released the following statement about the Staten Island site:

"Since last Spring, more than 110,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City in need of shelter. Over 60,000 remain in the City's care while hundreds more arrive each day, pushing our shelter system to its breaking point. Additional capacity is desperately needed, and every community must do their part as we continue to rapidly open new sites across all five boroughs to meet the ever-increasing need for shelter. In New York City, we treat everyone with dignity and compassion, long-term New Yorkers and new arrivals alike, and DSS is committed to ensuring the safety of our clients at all times."

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