Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez explains how Biden may have more options to provide assistance to migrants in New York.

WASHINGTON — Faced with growing calls for federal assistance, Biden administration officials say they're doing everything they can to help New York with its migrant crisis. This week they sent a top White House aide to meet with business leaders, dispatched dozens of federal workers to assist the city and have increased efforts to tell asylum-seekers how to apply for temporary work permits.

But they argue it'll take passage of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress to fix the underlying issues driving migrants to the U.S. and New York —  an outcome experts say is highly unlikely anytime soon.

Political analysts note Congress has not passed a sweeping immigration reform bill since the Reagan era, and subsequent attempts on both sides of the aisle to tackle the issue have collapsed.

The White House's call for action comes at a particularly divisive period on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans are pushing an impeachment inquiry into Biden and Senate Democrats hold a narrow edge, making it necessary to get Republican cross-over votes to pass legislation.

“Washington is the nerve center of government in the United States, but the agenda in Washington can only handle three or four things at once,” Farmingdale State University political science professor Christopher Malone said.

Malone said lawmakers are already dealing with the prospect of a government shutdown if a spending bill doesn't pass by the end of the month, the impeachment inquiry and an election year around the corner.

“You really can't push more,” Malone said, adding that "there's just no way that something like [immigration reform] can happen."

A senior administration official involved in the migrant response acknowledged the difficulty in reaching bipartisan consensus on the issue, but told Newsday “we're going to continue to do our best with Congress.”

“The home run is comprehensive immigration reform,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters freely. “The party of Ronald Reagan was once the party of immigrants, and I am hoping that we can work with those groups in the Republican Party who want to actually get things done, and we will do our very best to do so.”

The Biden administration has directed about $140 million to New York so far, but said any additional funding must be approved by Congress. Last month, the White House submitted a $40 billion emergency funding request that, if passed, would include $600 million for New York this year and $800 million next year. 

City officials contend it falls far short of the more than $3.6 billion they expect to spend on sheltering migrants this year.

Some House Republicans who represent Nassau and Suffolk counties say they will vote against the White House funding request unless New York City ends so-called sanctuary laws and policies that limit the interaction between city agencies and federal immigration enforcement officers.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), the senior member of the Long Island delegation, said in a statement: “There is no blank check coming for New York State or New York City.”

Garbarino continued: “This problem won’t be solved with money alone and it’s time for New York and the Biden Administration to get serious about changing their failed policies. When they are willing to change their disastrous policies, we can discuss funding.”

Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville), who sits with Garbarino on the House Homeland Security Committee, has said he will not support emergency funding for New York City unless the city repeals its sanctuary policies.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito’s office did not return a request for comment, but the Island Park Republican has been fundraising off the migrants issue. In an email to supporters this week, D'Esposito criticized Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams’ calls for expedited work permits as “downright reckless.”

Hochul and Adams argue that helping asylum applicants secure work permits faster than the 180 days outlined in federal law will ease demands on the city’s shelter system.

Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) said he will not support what he described as a “bailout” for New York City unless additional funding is set aside for enforcement efforts on the U.S. southern border. He noted that House Republicans passed their own version of a border security bill in May that called for additional funding to restart construction of a border wall. That bill is unlikely to be picked up by Senate Democrats and the White House already said it would veto the bill if it passed both chambers of Congress.

Santos said he also believes more funding is needed to hire additional immigration judges to handle the increasing number of asylum petitions.

“We need to expand the immigration system so it can accommodate this massive influx, so we can process these migrants faster, efficiently, and we can resolve whether their asylum requests are valid or not,” Santos said. “If they're not, we shouldn't be turning them right back around and sending them off back to their countries.”

The White House push to secure more aid could get a boost from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who as Majority Leader has significant influence in budget negotiations between House and Senate appropriators.

A Schumer spokesman said the senator would continue lobbying for additional funding for New York.

House Democrats in a news conference outside a Manhattan migrant processing facility on Friday called for additional federal resources and urged the Biden administration to extend temporary protected status to Venezuelan migrants, who make up the largest share of migrants to the city. That status typically is extended to those from countries deemed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as unsafe places to live and work.

But as lawmakers such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) tried to outline their demands, they were drowned out by protesters shouting “Close the border.”

“The American dream will not be bullied into submission,” Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan) said over the chants outside the Roosevelt Hotel.

The senior administration official pointed to a bipartisan proposal introduced in May by Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R- Fla.) as a model of compromise legislation.

The Dignity Act of 2023 calls for bolstering border security while also providing a 12-year path to citizenship for migrants already living and working in the United States without legal status. The bill would detain asylum-seekers who arrive at the southern border at a series of five “humanitarian campuses” as they await the outcome of their asylum case, and would dock the pay of migrants working in the U.S. without legal status to pay for border security projects.

Escobar said she hoped the situation in New York would help generate “momentum” for the measure. She was among the House Democrats with Espaillat and Ocasio-Cortez on Friday.

“What has been frustrating for me, as I've heard some New York-elected officials talk about this, is they all point to the president,” Escobar told Newsday. “There's only one body that can create the legislative changes that we need, and that's Congress. So they need to be pointing the finger at Congress, and they need to be demanding that members of Congress find a bipartisan solution.”

Asked about the bill's prospects, Escobar said she believed it was “absolutely within the realm of possibility” that it eventually would be scheduled for a full floor vote, noting that the measure has six GOP sponsors and six Democratic sponsors, including New York Reps. Mike Lawler (R-Suffern) and Espaillat.

“We have not had immigration reform for 37 years — it is long past time that there is compromise and that we acknowledge neither side, not Democrats and not Republicans, are going to get everything we want, but how can we come together and get what this country needs?” Escobar said.

Salazar said the bipartisan proposal “is the solution to every immigration problem we are facing in the United States — including what is happening in New York City right now.”

“Under the Dignity Act, asylum-seekers will remain near the border while their claims are decided in an expedited manner,” Salazar said. “This will prevent migrants from being sent to other parts of the country while they wait YEARS to get a determination on their asylum claim.”

WASHINGTON — Faced with growing calls for federal assistance, Biden administration officials say they're doing everything they can to help New York with its migrant crisis. This week they sent a top White House aide to meet with business leaders, dispatched dozens of federal workers to assist the city and have increased efforts to tell asylum-seekers how to apply for temporary work permits.

But they argue it'll take passage of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress to fix the underlying issues driving migrants to the U.S. and New York —  an outcome experts say is highly unlikely anytime soon.

Political analysts note Congress has not passed a sweeping immigration reform bill since the Reagan era, and subsequent attempts on both sides of the aisle to tackle the issue have collapsed.

The White House's call for action comes at a particularly divisive period on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans are pushing an impeachment inquiry into Biden and Senate Democrats hold a narrow edge, making it necessary to get Republican cross-over votes to pass legislation.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The Biden administration says it is limited in what it can do to help with New York City's migrant crisis and has called on Congress to pass immigration reform.
  • Analysts say that's unlikely to happen anytime soon on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans are pushing an impeachment inquiry and lawmakers need to agree on a spending plan by the end of the month.
  • Some Long Island House Republicans say they will vote against the White House’s request for additional funding to shelter migrants unless New York City ends so-called sanctuary policies.

“Washington is the nerve center of government in the United States, but the agenda in Washington can only handle three or four things at once,” Farmingdale State University political science professor Christopher Malone said.

Malone said lawmakers are already dealing with the prospect of a government shutdown if a spending bill doesn't pass by the end of the month, the impeachment inquiry and an election year around the corner.

“You really can't push more,” Malone said, adding that "there's just no way that something like [immigration reform] can happen."

A senior administration official involved in the migrant response acknowledged the difficulty in reaching bipartisan consensus on the issue, but told Newsday “we're going to continue to do our best with Congress.”

“The home run is comprehensive immigration reform,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters freely. “The party of Ronald Reagan was once the party of immigrants, and I am hoping that we can work with those groups in the Republican Party who want to actually get things done, and we will do our very best to do so.”

The Biden administration has directed about $140 million to New York so far, but said any additional funding must be approved by Congress. Last month, the White House submitted a $40 billion emergency funding request that, if passed, would include $600 million for New York this year and $800 million next year. 

City officials contend it falls far short of the more than $3.6 billion they expect to spend on sheltering migrants this year.

Opposition on Long Island

Some House Republicans who represent Nassau and Suffolk counties say they will vote against the White House funding request unless New York City ends so-called sanctuary laws and policies that limit the interaction between city agencies and federal immigration enforcement officers.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), the senior member of the Long Island delegation, said in a statement: “There is no blank check coming for New York State or New York City.”

Garbarino continued: “This problem won’t be solved with money alone and it’s time for New York and the Biden Administration to get serious about changing their failed policies. When they are willing to change their disastrous policies, we can discuss funding.”

Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville), who sits with Garbarino on the House Homeland Security Committee, has said he will not support emergency funding for New York City unless the city repeals its sanctuary policies.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito’s office did not return a request for comment, but the Island Park Republican has been fundraising off the migrants issue. In an email to supporters this week, D'Esposito criticized Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams’ calls for expedited work permits as “downright reckless.”

Hochul and Adams argue that helping asylum applicants secure work permits faster than the 180 days outlined in federal law will ease demands on the city’s shelter system.

Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) said he will not support what he described as a “bailout” for New York City unless additional funding is set aside for enforcement efforts on the U.S. southern border. He noted that House Republicans passed their own version of a border security bill in May that called for additional funding to restart construction of a border wall. That bill is unlikely to be picked up by Senate Democrats and the White House already said it would veto the bill if it passed both chambers of Congress.

Santos said he also believes more funding is needed to hire additional immigration judges to handle the increasing number of asylum petitions.

“We need to expand the immigration system so it can accommodate this massive influx, so we can process these migrants faster, efficiently, and we can resolve whether their asylum requests are valid or not,” Santos said. “If they're not, we shouldn't be turning them right back around and sending them off back to their countries.”

The White House push to secure more aid could get a boost from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who as Majority Leader has significant influence in budget negotiations between House and Senate appropriators.

A Schumer spokesman said the senator would continue lobbying for additional funding for New York.

Bipartisan bill

House Democrats in a news conference outside a Manhattan migrant processing facility on Friday called for additional federal resources and urged the Biden administration to extend temporary protected status to Venezuelan migrants, who make up the largest share of migrants to the city. That status typically is extended to those from countries deemed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as unsafe places to live and work.

But as lawmakers such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) tried to outline their demands, they were drowned out by protesters shouting “Close the border.”

“The American dream will not be bullied into submission,” Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan) said over the chants outside the Roosevelt Hotel.

The senior administration official pointed to a bipartisan proposal introduced in May by Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R- Fla.) as a model of compromise legislation.

The Dignity Act of 2023 calls for bolstering border security while also providing a 12-year path to citizenship for migrants already living and working in the United States without legal status. The bill would detain asylum-seekers who arrive at the southern border at a series of five “humanitarian campuses” as they await the outcome of their asylum case, and would dock the pay of migrants working in the U.S. without legal status to pay for border security projects.

Escobar said she hoped the situation in New York would help generate “momentum” for the measure. She was among the House Democrats with Espaillat and Ocasio-Cortez on Friday.

“What has been frustrating for me, as I've heard some New York-elected officials talk about this, is they all point to the president,” Escobar told Newsday. “There's only one body that can create the legislative changes that we need, and that's Congress. So they need to be pointing the finger at Congress, and they need to be demanding that members of Congress find a bipartisan solution.”

Asked about the bill's prospects, Escobar said she believed it was “absolutely within the realm of possibility” that it eventually would be scheduled for a full floor vote, noting that the measure has six GOP sponsors and six Democratic sponsors, including New York Reps. Mike Lawler (R-Suffern) and Espaillat.

“We have not had immigration reform for 37 years — it is long past time that there is compromise and that we acknowledge neither side, not Democrats and not Republicans, are going to get everything we want, but how can we come together and get what this country needs?” Escobar said.

Salazar said the bipartisan proposal “is the solution to every immigration problem we are facing in the United States — including what is happening in New York City right now.”

“Under the Dignity Act, asylum-seekers will remain near the border while their claims are decided in an expedited manner,” Salazar said. “This will prevent migrants from being sent to other parts of the country while they wait YEARS to get a determination on their asylum claim.”

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