Several House Democrats were met with protests in New York City on Friday as they held a press conference to discuss the strain that sheltering illegal immigrants and asylum applicants has put on the city’s resources.
Around a dozen House Democrats, including several who represent New York City, toured Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hotel on Friday to see firsthand how the building is now being used to shelter migrants arriving in the city.
As the visiting Democratic delegation held a press conference outside the converted hotel, they were thronged by a crowd of protesters who often drowned them out with calls to secure the U.S. border and restrict new immigration.
New York City has become a receiving point for tens of thousands of non-citizens waiting on federal immigration authorities to decide whether they can remain in the United States or whether they will have to be deported.
Since the spring of 2022, New York City officials have reported taking in more than 110,000 migrants, many of whom may have crossed the border illegally.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district includes parts of the Bronx and Queens, called for new policies to grant work authorization for migrants arriving in the United States.
She and other New York Democrats have argued that allowing these non-citizens to work while they await asylum decisions and removal orders will ease the burden New York City faces to house these people.
“Allow work authorization so folks can get to work and start supporting themselves,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said during the press conference, straining to be heard over the shouting from members of the crowd. “They are prevented from getting jobs. They are prevented from employment, and that is part of the strain on our public system.”
Democrat New York City Mayor Eric Adams has also called on President Joe Biden to declare a temporary protective status (TPS), a federal designation that allows non-citizens from certain countries to remain in the U.S. and find employment without risking deportation.
“The faster that folks can access the work that they are asking for, legally, the better we can solve this problem,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said on Friday.
Protesters Say ‘Close The Border’
Throughout their press conference on Friday, the Democrats were met with chants of “close the border.”
“There’s no money for public housing. There’s no money for our kids. Just look at the streets of our city. This place in the middle of the night is full of people,” Mr. Rinaldi said. “I have kids. I cannot have them walking down the streets anymore.”
Mr. Rinaldi said the solution to New York City’s is to close the U.S. border “immediately.” He said he is in favor of legal immigration, but said the city cannot handle the financial burdens of the current influx of people.
Another protester, David Rem, reiterated the call to “close the border.” He also criticized President Biden’s efforts to end the Migrant Protection Protocols, a Trump-era policy often referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required asylum seekers to remain in Mexico until their court date for their asylum case.
Mr. Rem said asylum seekers should continue to be restricted under the “remain in Mexico” policy.
“Have them remain in Mexico like the policy was before,” Mr. Rem said.
Mr. Rem was seen during the protest holding a sign expressing his opposition to Democrats calling for expedited work authorization for the illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in the city.
“No Work Authorization! Remain in Mexico! Cierra La Frontera Ya! Close The Border Now!” his sign read.
Mr. Rem further criticized the current U.S. immigration system, saying he has a family member in Columbia who is pursuing a legal pathway to enter the U.S. that requires them to wait for the time being.
“Why does my family member have to wait in Colombia when they filed a legal petition, and these people are already on 45th street?”
‘We Will Not Be Bullied’: Democrat Lawmaker
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) appeared to reference the protesters specifically during his remarks at the Friday press conference.
The Democrat lawmaker, whose congressional district includes upper Manhattan and parts of the Bronx, said he and his colleagues would not be deterred from pursuing the work authorization for the illegal immigrants and asylum seekers as well as added federal funding to help New York City sustain the continuing influx of people.
“The American dream will not be bullied into submission today,” Mr. Espaillat said over the shouts from the crowd. “We will continue to fight for the American dream. We will not be bullied. We will not be pushed into a corner. We will fight for these common sense solutions.”
Rep. Nicole Maliotakis (R-N.Y.) criticized the solution her Democrat counterparts were asking for, saying relaxed work authorization rules are a “non-starter.”
Ms. Maliotakis, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, also argued that approving more federal funding for New York City without also doing more to secure U.S. borders would simply exacerbate the flow of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers coming to the city for shelter and assistance.