Reps. Adriano Espaillat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nydia Velazquez and Jerry Nadler of New York gathered outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, alongside other lawmakers who are part of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to address the situation that has caused tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to end up in the city.
The hotel has been serving as a relief center for migrants.
Groups of protesters upset over the arrival of asylum-seeking migrants and the city's mandate to provide them with shelter and basic services started shouting so loudly it was difficult for the lawmakers to speak.
A man with a megaphone could be heard saying, “Close the border!" as other protesters chanted, “Send them back!”
The city has seen a recent increase in these kinds of demonstrations since Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, said last week that the migrant issue "will destroy New York City.”
Similar protests took place Thursday in Staten Island, the city’s most conservative borough, and outside the Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, where many migrants are being sheltered.
Over the past year, more than 100,000 migrants have arrived to New York City to seek asylum. A large proportion of them have come into the U.S. through the Texas border.
In the summer, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began putting many of these migrants into buses and sending them to New York and other Democratic-run cities last summer.
Adams has criticized Abbott’s actions as inhumane, saying they are being done without coordination. Abbott has repeatedly defended his decision.
Adams has said that an estimated 10,000 migrants are arriving to the city every month. Their arrivals coincide with a widespread housing crisis as the number of people in city shelters has surpassed 80,000 per night.
A mandate in place since 1981 requires New York City to provide shelter to every person in need. Adams has been seeking changes to that requirement.
According to the mayor's office, the city has opened more than 200 emergency shelters to address the issue, costing the city more than $2 billion to date.
The delegation of Democratic lawmakers had just finished touring one of those emergency shelters before the muddled news conference Friday.
Espaillat said they were there to “see for themselves what the migration dynamic is in our nation.” He said they saw “people that want to work, people that are fleeing violence, people that are fleeing environmental disasters."
During their trip, the members of Congress also met with city officials to discuss their response as well as hear from service providers currently offering support these asylum-seeking families.
Following the news conference, Velazquez told reporters they were all very impressed by what the city has done to provide services, adding that the conditions on the shelter they visited were appropriate.
"They have mental health services, health care services, children are being kept busy playing," she said.
Adams has asked for more federal support in an escalating back-and-forth with federal and state officials over who should be responsible for managing the growing number of people in need of housing, medical and financial assistance upon arrival.
Both Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have also been calling for expedited work permits for asylum-seekers.
A federal assessment team was recently sent to New York City to provide recommendations on how to manage the crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on MSNBC Monday. The agency is now "executing on those recommendations in close partnership with the city.”
Some of the recommendations include providing information to migrants about what to do to eventually exit the shelter system, how to obtain work authorization and pursue possible asylum claims.
Migrants who have arrived in the U.S. legally, via the Customs and Border Protection app known as CBP One or through a humanitarian parole program for a limited number of migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua, could be eligible for work authorization — which would eventually help them become less dependent on the shelter system. But without the city collecting that information, it’s difficult to know who might be able to work.
At the news conference, lawmakers spoke about providing Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans, who are half of the migrants coming in, Espaillat said. The federal protections would improve their ability to become more independent and be less reliant on city services, they said.
Other recommendations from the federal assessment team call on the city to improve how it collects the migrants' information when they arrive at shelters, including a determination of their eligibility to work, and focus better in managing their cases.