Several prominent Democrats on Sunday slammed recent moves by Republican governors to send migrants from the southern border to northern liberal enclaves to protest what they say are inadequate federal efforts on southern border security.
“We should not be really treating other cities and municipalities in the manner that we’re witnessing now,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
Adams said the current migrant situation is a “humanitarian crisis created by human hands” that requires “an all-hands-on-deck moment” of coordination by the US.
“We’re all supposed to come together and coordinate. Coordination during a crisis is something that we must do together. That’s the federal government, that is also the governor of the state of Texas, as well as the governor of the state of Florida,” he added.
Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents a border district in Texas, called on the Biden administration to enforce Obama-era immigration laws that sent migrants back to their home countries. But he also criticized Republican governors for sending migrants to other cities, saying, “We need solutions and not theater.”
“The migrants are human beings and we got to treat them like human beings. They’re being used as political pawns to get publicity,” he said.
The Democrats’ remarks come come days after GOP Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida sent migrants in Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in Washington, DC. Though their moves have been blasted by critics as political stunts, they underscore the growing crisis at the southern border and the need for leaders in Washington and elsewhere to work together to address the issue.
Abbott’s office estimated last week that more than 2,500 migrants have been bused from Texas to New York.
For his part, Adams said Abbott and DeSantis are exhibiting an “erosion of basic human rights” by “treating people in an inhumane manner.” He went on to describe some of the conditions migrants were found in when they’ve arrived in New York from border states.
“In some cases, we had those who were Covid positive on the buses with individuals who were dehydrated – didn’t have proper food,” he said. “Some were even tagged, like you would tag an animal.”
Former President Bill Clinton also criticized DeSantis for his move last week, telling CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview that aired Sunday on “GPS” that it “may come back to haunt him a little bit.”
‘Trying to send a message’
Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, meanwhile, defended Abbott and DeSantis in a separate interview Sunday on “State of the Union,” arguing that the governors were “doing their best to try to send a message to the rest of the nation about the plight of those individuals that are coming from south of the border.”
“You’re talking about 3.4 million people, just since the start of this Biden administration, that have crossed the border. And they’re coming into southern states,” Rounds said. “What is a governor supposed to do? They are trying to send a message to the rest of the country that this is not acceptable, and that their states can’t handle that kind of inflow.”
Adams on Sunday said it was “really unfortunate” that a country known for its humanitarian actions was behaving like this. “This is a blight on our entire country,” he said.
The mayor said that he’s spoken to leaders in DC to discuss immigration reform, pressing on the importance of allowing new arrivals to be able to work in the US.
“I don’t think it’s really logical to allow people to be here for months without the ability to seek employment, particularly during a time when we are seeking employees on various sectors in our city,” he said.
Adams also said he plans on changing certain policies in the city’s “Right-to-Shelter” law to better respond to the situation.
“I’m sure 40 years ago, when this law was put into place, no one thought that we would receive 11,000 migrants or asylum seekers,” he said.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, another critic of the GOP governors, insisted Sunday that the immigration system must be addressed, even if it is a difficult issue for Democrats as the midterms loom.
The Illinois Democrat acknowledged on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “there is political danger” for Democrats in discussing immigration but said it was not an impossible issue to solve.
“All of these things can be done. Are they controversial? You bet. Some of them are very controversial, but we know we need to do it,” he said.
Cuellar said on CBS that the Biden administration should enforce Obama-era immigration laws. He praised former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who he said “did it the right way. He treated people with dignity, but he returned people and he showed images of people being returned.”
On Saturday, Attorney General Merrick Garland took part in a swearing-in ceremony for new US citizens on Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
Garland didn’t address the current partisan conflict over the migrants crisis in his remarks, but he acknowledged the polarization in the country.
“The responsibility to ensure the rule of law is and has been the duty of every generation in our country’s history. It is now your duty as well. And it is one that is especially urgent today at a time of intense polarization in America,” Garland told the new citizens.
“Overcoming the current polarization in our public life is, and will continue to be, a difficult task,” he added.
Garland also stressed the protection provided by the US to those fleeing persecution. Many migrants crossing the US-Mexico border are seeking asylum – in some cases from political persecution.
“That protection is what distinguishes America from so many other countries. The protection of law – the rule of law – is the foundation of our system of government,” Garland said.
This story and headline have been updated.
CNN’s Morgan Rimmer, Sarah Fortinsky, Aaron Pellish and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.