Hochul continues to strike out with White House in requests for help in New York's migrant crisis
Gov. Kathy Hochul is facing stonewalling from the White House and the federal government as she struggles to deal with the state’s intensifying migrant crisis.
But the governor said she’s sticking with her strategy for now.
Hochul has for months asked political ally President Joe Biden and his administration to waive the six-month waiting period before the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers entering New York are allowed to seek jobs. Biden has so far not agreed.
The governor is also asking the federal Department of the Interior to allow the state to use Floyd Bennett Field, a former U.S. Navy air station in Brooklyn, to house migrants. She said the vacant buildings could take up to 2,000 asylum-seekers.
Hochul, speaking Sunday at the Dominican Day parade in New York City, said she struck out again during a conference call with top White House aides.
“Getting the federal government to change its position, and to tell an agency, the Department of Interior, that they now have to accept migrants has been a complicated journey,” Hochul said. “Something I've been working on literally daily for two months, three months, and intensely for the last few weeks.”
Hochul said she discussed how to resolve any legal barriers or obstacles to using the property to house the migrants, and how the logistics would work.
“I did not take away from that a hard no,” she said. “I think it's just going to be an evolving process.”
The governor is pursuing another strategy to deal with the crisis. She’s challenging a 1937 constitutional amendment that could be interpreted as legally requiring New York state to provide for the migrants. A 1981 court decision created New York City’s “right to shelter” provision, making it a constitutional right in the city.
A state Supreme Court judge in Manhattan is currently deciding whether that rule should also be in effect for the entire state. Hochul said it shouldn’t.
“I'm convinced that the right to shelter is the result of a consent decree undertaken by the city of New York and Legal Aid Society back in 1979,” she said. “The state is not a party to that. So the right to shelter does not expand to the whole of the state.”
Hochul’s stance has generated controversy among her Democratic allies in state government. New York Attorney General Tish James has declined to represent the state in the matter. Hochul has had to hire private attorneys. She brushed off the rift, saying it’s not unusual for the state to hire specialized outside counsel in complicated legal proceedings.
Losing the court case could be costly for the state, which is already spending more than $200 million to deploy more than 2,000 National Guard troops to assist with the crisis. The state budget set aside $1 billion to help the city pay for sheltering the asylum-seekers.
Meanwhile, a for-profit company hired by New York City, DocGo, continues to bus migrants to upstate hotels who have contracted to provide rooms. Local government officials have complained about a lack of communication, and published reports have documented complaints from the asylum-seekers over the poor quality of food and lack of access to medical care or transportation to stores to buy basic supplies.
Hochul said she’s troubled by those reports.
“Incidences have arisen, been reported on, that are deeply concerning to me as governor of the state,” she said.
Hochul said she’s overseeing a review of the company to make sure they are meeting all their contractual obligations to see to the migrants’ needs.