A House Judiciary Committee hearing held Tuesday on migrants seeking entry into the United States through Mexico featured an unlikely witness: Teresa Kenny, the supervisor of Orangetown, N.Y.
A suburb of New York City, Orangetown is nowhere near the border where thousands of mostly South and Central American migrants gather each day to find their way into a country that was the end point of long and perilous journeys.
But as New York City Mayor Eric Adams has struggled to house the hundreds of migrants regularly being bused to his city from Texas, he has been forced to look at smaller communities north of the city for help.
In early May, Adams informed Kenny that he planned to house more than 300 migrants at the Armoni Inn & Suites, near Orangetown’s main strip.
The standoff between Adams, a Democrat, and Kenny, a Republican, is indicative of the broader impasse over immigration, which was on display during Tuesday’s hearing.
Orangetown supervisor blames New York City mayor
“The problem with Mr Adams’s plan is that he doesn’t have one,” Kenny said at Tuesday’s hearing. It was a harsh verdict, but even Adams might agree.
“This is not sustainable for us,” Adams recently admitted.
By sending bus loads of migrants to New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has nationalized the border crisis, which he and other Republicans argue has been exacerbated by President Biden’s refusal to build a Trump-style barrier or prioritize security.
“Mayor Eric Adams never thought the border crisis would make it to New York City,” Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, said.
Tuesday’s hearing comes just days after the end of Title 42, a pandemic-era measure that allowed for quick expulsion of migrants caught crossing the border illegally. Some expected the statute’s termination to cause a surge, which has in fact materialized — if only because many migrants appear to have tried to cross the border in the days before Title 42 expired.
The number of monthly border crossings today is much higher than it was in 2020. Democrats say that instability in Venezuela, Haiti and other nations is causing unprecedented demographic shifts.
Republicans disagree. They argue that since Democratic mayors have declared their cities as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, it is only fitting that they shelter the thousands making their way across border checkpoints in Texas and Arizona.
Adams was caught off guard by Abbott’s busing plan, which the governor enacted last spring without any coordination. The cynicism of the ploy was laid bare when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida fooled migrants from Venezuela into boarding a flight to the wealthy, liberal enclave of Martha’s Vineyard.
Scrambling for a solution, Adams and his administration have tried to house migrants in hotels and school gyms, only to encounter resistance from locals — and complaints from immigrant advocates.
The plan to place migrants in New York’s suburbs reflects nothing more than Adams’s increasing desperation. But there is little sense that Kenny and other small-town mayors are interested in helping.
Adams blames Biden
When he was first elected New York’s mayor, Adams touted his kinship with Biden, even inspiring some presidential speculation of his own. But the migrant crisis has put a strain on Adams’s relationship with Biden, whom he charged with not doing enough to help.
“I’m extremely frustrated,” Adams told Yahoo News in January. His frustration has only deepened since then, as has his dismay at what he says is Biden’s inaction.
For months, the White House took these criticisms in stride. But two weeks ago, Adams was removed from the president’s reelection advisory board for his insistent criticisms.
Adams has continued to press his case. “This should not be happening to New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, in the other big northern cities,” he said in a recent television interview, “and really shouldn't be happening to El Paso or Brownsville, Texas."
Biden blames Republicans
Adams is a Democrat, as are the mayors of Chicago and Washington. Their constituents — people of color, urban professionals, immigrants — form the backbone of the Democratic coalition.
Yet there’s only so much the White House is willing to do to help. Administration officials point out that its parole program is working and that millions have already been devoted to help house migrants.
“When it comes to the cities, we're doing everything that we can,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told Yahoo News at a Tuesday press briefing. “Of course, we would want to do more, but we have to have Congress to act as well.”
Congressional action is unlikely.
At Tuesday’s House hearing, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, invoked the memory of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who proposed a comprehensive immigration reform plan in 2005 and then again in 2014. Though supported by many Republicans, the proposal was undone by the opposition of hardline conservatives.
There has been no meaningful effort by Capitol Hill since.