Republican lawmakers want special session to address growing migrant crisis

Photo courtesy of New York City Councilwoman Vickie Paladino, via @VickieforNYC
Members of the Republican Assembly delegation speak in front of the St. Agnes migrant center in College Point, including New York City Councilwoman Vickie Paladino, right, and Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, second from right, to demand that Gov. Kathy Hochul convene a special legislative session to address this migrant crisis.

NEW YORK – On Sept. 5, New York State Assembly Republicans held a joint press conference with Queens officials to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to take action regarding the growing migrant crisis.

The Queens event was held only days after members of the Assembly Republican Committee and Senate Republicans sent letters to Gov. Hochul, urging her “to convene an extraordinary session of the Legislature to address the issue head-on.” 

The letters were signed by Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay and 23 other assembly members, as well as Senate Republican Rob Ortt and 14 senators. “We need an immediate special session of the Legislature,” Barclay said.

Gov. Hochul told reporters at a press conference on Sept. 7 that she was not against calling for a special session of the Legislature. 

As a sanctuary city, New York has been a prime destination for many migrants seeking asylum in the United States. Over the past year, tens of thousands have traveled to New York City, with the number eclipsing 100,000. New York state has allocated $1.5 billion to help cover costs to support the migrants. Despite this, the city has still been unable to properly process the overwhelming numbers and officials have been forced to open up new emergency shelters to house the migrants. Many are still unhoused and forced to sleep in the street.

New York City residents are feeling the effects of the crisis and are unsure about how the problem will be resolved. Republican leaders are blaming the Democrats and the Biden Administration, saying their policies created the current crisis. Factors, such as lack of oversight and long-term planning, as well as open borders, have all contributed to the ongoing situation. 

“My constituents are upset because of the way that the city, the state and the federal government are handling this crisis,” said Assemblyman Michael Tannousis, R-Staten Island. “The federal government has not done its part to control our border. I am asking that the president take action in regards to the open border and I am asking that a long term solution be planned out for the migrants that have already arrived in New York City.” 

Assembly Minority Leader Barclay and New York City Councilwoman Vickie Paladino held the press conference last Tuesday, at a high school in College Point, Queens, to demand the convening of a special session of the New York State Legislature, in order to introduce policies directed towards protecting taxpayers and communities. 

The high school, formerly known as St. Agnes Academic High School, had been converted to an emergency shelter for asylum seekers. The decision to do so had been met with opposition by both community members and local leaders alike. Dozens of other closed schools, hotels and other community-based buildings across the city have also been converted to shelters. 

As the weeks progressed and no solutions offered, Councilwoman Paladino, who represents College Point and the surrounding District 19, has had enough. 

“How are my constituents handling it? Not well at all anymore,” she said in a recent interview with The Legislative Gazette. “Everybody was patient in the beginning. But now that we know the direction that it’s going in, with no endgame in sight, everybody’s patience is shot. This cannot continue to go on.”

Such policies would include increased oversight on federal and state funds provided for humanitarian aid, prevent schools and daycare centers from being converted into shelters with aid funding and ask the federal government for financial aid. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams had stated that the city could spend upwards of $12 billion over the next three years in regards to the migrant crisis, having already spent $1.45 billion over the past year. Republicans want to alleviate New York City taxpayers from the financial burden. Additionally, they want more oversight regarding the allocation and spending of relief funding, which was bypassed by the State of Emergency that was declared earlier this year. 

Gov. Hochul signed Executive Order 28 this past May in preparation of an increase in migration, specifically for New York City. The executive order enabled the “purchase of commodities, services, technology and materials without following the standard notices and procuring processes.” This meant that public money was able to be spent without going through the standard auditing and bidding processes.