migrant crisis

Biden team denies New York's right-to-shelter policy hurt city's case for aid

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The Biden administration has suggested the solution to New York's migrant crisis is eliminating the city's right to shelter, according to City and State officials and business leaders involved in discussions with the White House.

The sources tell NBC New York that based on their conversations, they believe the Biden team might have offered New York City more relief, if not for their concerns that the right-to-shelter policy provides a never-ending incentive for migrants to continue coming across the border.

"That's why they're reluctant," said one State official.

Two New Yorkers who requested anonymity because they were describing private conversations say White House staffers have noted that cities like Los Angeles and Denver have only a couple thousand migrants while New York City has almost 60,000.

The White House denies that concerns about the right-to-shelter have impacted federal aid to New York City in any way.

"Any assertion that the Administration will not help the city or state of New York unless the right to shelter law is repealed or modified is patently inaccurate and ignores the whole-of-government efforts currently helping the city and state," said White House spokesman Seth Schuster in a statement.

The City, State and the Legal Aid society are in discussions before a State Supreme Court Justice, after Mayor Eric Adams asked the court to consider reopening a four-decade-old right to shelter settlement to give him more flexibility.

The Biden administration cites reasons why they have not implemented the "fixes" the city and state are requesting.

For instance, the mayor has asked for the president to declare a state of emergency, which could unlock additional funding, but federal officials say under the Stafford Act, an emergency declaration is limited to disaster situations like hurricanes or wildfires.

Gov. Katy Hochul has said the Department of Homeland Security could circumvent the minimum six month wait to become eligible for work permits by granting Temporary Protected Status to migrants from certain countries, like Venezuela. But federal officials say that pathway to work would not necessarily be shorter, because asylum seekers would still need to apply for TPS and be processed.

Donors furious about Biden's handling of crisis

Some Biden fundraisers and big donors say the president should expect an earful when he arrives in New York next week. The president will be attending the UN General Assembly and holding four fundraisers, including a "Biden on Broadway" event.

Several local Democratic sources involved in fundraising for Biden confirmed the migrant issue is impacting donations. 

"You are correct," one said. "Some people decided to send a message that New York has been stiff-armed."

A different fundraiser, who is involved in hosting a "lawyers for Biden" event next Wednesday, says the event is struggling to bring in money. "This issue is a major, major problem for bundlers and donors who are attempting to make the third quarter look positive."

The fundraisers say the Biden campaign is aware of the criticism and even provided event organizers a list of talking points titled "Campaign talkers on migrants," intended to assuage the donor concerns.  Among the points: that President Biden inherited a broken system, that he is working collaboratively with his New York partners, and that it's Congress that needs to act.

The Biden Campaign did not provide a comment in response to our request.

The Biden administration has been trying hard in recent days to project the message that they are delivering much needed help to the city. They announced plans Tuesday to send 50 staffers to New York City for asylum application help and senior Biden aide Tom Perez was back in town Thursday to meet with business leaders.

Some big donors unhappy about the migrant situation in their hometown say they do not want to hurt Biden or help Donald Trump, but are using their money as leverage.

"This is a real thing," said one prominent New York public relations executive who represents several wealthy Democratic donors. "It is a criticism the president should be ready to hear and be ready with an answer when he comes to New York."

Read the full White House Statement here:

Since the first day of his Administration, President Biden has called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Without Congressional action, this Administration has been working to build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system and we’ve led the largest expansion of lawful pathways for immigration in decades. The federal government is working to provide information and services to ensure that those who are eligible submit their work permit applications immediately.

The Biden-Harris Administration has sent more than a million emails and text messages to hundreds of thousands of migrants who may be eligible for a work permit, to remind them of their eligibility to apply. These messages were sent out in multiple languages, including Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Ukrainian. Additionally, in September, 50 federal personnel will deploy to New York to educate people on the immigration system and how to apply for work permits. We are also distributing Employment Authorization Document flyers directly to migrants and to local and state governments, non-profits, and other stakeholders to distribute further. These flyers include a QR code for migrants to access the EAD application instantly.

At the request of the city and state, the National Park Service and local officials are finalizing a lease for portions of Floyd Bennett Field, this will serve as one of the largest shelter spaces available to the city. The Federal government has provided the City and State of New York more than $140 million in federal funding this Fiscal Year and we have requested an additional $600 million for the Shelter and Services Program in our Supplemental request. We continue to call on Congress to fulfil that request and provide communities across the country the support they need.

Any assertion that the Administration will not help the city or state of New York unless the right to shelter law is repealed or modified is patently inaccurate, and ignores the whole-of-government efforts currently helping the city and state manage recently arrived migrants.

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