New York Assembly and Senate Republicans are calling for an extraordinary session of the legislature to address issues around the influx of migrants to the state. The conferences have sent a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul urging her to “address the issue head on."
“I think one thing we can agree on in a bipartisan manner is this is a crisis. We’ve had 100,000 migrants come to this state,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay told Capital Tonight. “Clearly, this influx of people is taxing social services, is taxing law enforcement. It’s taxing our citizens and our communities.”
The latest numbers from the New York City mayor’s office are slightly higher: As of this week, it’s estimated that 110,100 migrants have passed through New York City since last spring.
Assembly Republicans have introduced several measures that they believe will address the situation. They want to ensure funding is not used to shelter migrants in schools, day care centers or community-based organizations. They have also introduced a bill requiring that the state register all migrants to assist with background checks (A.7319-A).
The measures have earned the ire of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York.
In an emailed statement, NYIC Executive Director Murad Awadeh told Capital Tonight, “The legislation proposed by Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay and his colleagues is xenophobic in its intent, a negligent waste of taxpayer money, and does nothing to make our communities safer.”
“If you asked anyone on the street, they wouldn’t say it’s xenophobic. They’d say it’s common sense.”
While on opposite sides of this issue, both Awadeh and Barclay seem to agree that the Legislature has a role to play when it comes to dealing with migrants.
“We need legislative solutions like New York For All and Access to Representation which ensure that every New Yorker has an equal chance to build a home here,” Awadeh stated.
The “New York for All Act” (S.03076/A.02328) would prohibit state and local government agencies from “colluding with ICE, disclosing sensitive information, and diverting personnel or other resources to further federal immigration enforcement."
The “Access to Representation Act” would ensure a right to counsel for all immigrants facing deportation in New York (S.81B/A.01961A).
But it doesn’t appear that the Democratic majorities in either house are ready to return to Albany to address these issues.
In separate statements, both Speaker Carl Heastie and a spokesman for the Senate Democrats seemed to dismiss calls for a special session.
“I think it is time for Will Barclay to work with Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his Republican colleagues who have refused to act on this federal crisis. They have used this as a political football to kick around rather than provide assistance to asylum seekers and impacted communities,” said Heastie.
“This is an absurd request by the Republicans,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats. “Last year their entire conference voted against over $1.5 billion to help local municipalities deal with this crisis.”
Barclay said he realizes the GOP’s proposals aren’t going to solve the migrant issue, but that New Yorkers deserve a Legislature that does something.
“If the federal government’s not acting, can the state just stand still and do nothing? I don’t think that’s what the New York citizens want,” he said.