Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar collected the signatures of 54 legislators in her letter sent to President Joe Biden, urging him to recognize the city’s need for help in handling the increase of migrants, on Wednesday, July 26.
In the letter drafted by Rajkumar, legislators ask Biden to declare a state of emergency to receive federal aid for better shelter, food relief, healthcare, legal aid, and transportation options. The letter also asks the White House to implement a strategy to expedite work authorization for asylum seekers and create a fair distribution system at the country’s borders.
“New Yorkers take pride in welcoming immigrants. Our country was founded by immigrants. Immigrants have boosted our economy and standing in the world,” read the letter. “Immigrants contribute $2 trillion to our GDP each year. They are 20% of our essential workers. They drive our Nation’s innovation, being responsible for more than 75% of the patents filed by top universities.”
The congregate of elected officials also asked the president for more federal funding. Rajkumar mentioned in the letter that the city continues to support over 4,000 asylum seekers arriving every week and adopted the lump sum of feeding and housing responsibility of over 80,000 last year.
“As New Yorkers who love our city, we stand ready to help and to support our president in taking leadership over one of the greatest crises New York City has ever faced. We hope that you consider our requests. We believe that with your leadership, we can turn this crisis into opportunity and that this can become one of history’s greatest success stories,” Rajkumar wrote.
As the former director of Immigration Affairs for New York State, Rajkumar advocated for swift action from Washington before. Mayor Eric Adams also called for federal resources around the same time last year.
Queens legislators know first-hand the strain from taking on the city’s responsibility to cater to migrants, often prompting a swift response from some who’ve shown reluctance to house asylum seekers in their neighborhoods.
In South Ozone Park, Queens, community members rallied outside of the Aqueduct Racetrack near the Resorts World Casino in response to word of a “tent city” to house asylum seekers would resurrect in the area. Within 48 hours that same day on Monday, July 17, the proposed site was officially “off the table,” Councilwoman Joann Ariola announced.
In Eastern Queens, the city announced the opening of a large-scale migrant shelter at the closed Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, at 79-26 Winchester Boulevard, in Queens Village, despite community protest.
In central Queens, whispers of migrants coming to a men’s shelter in Councilman Robert Holden’s district were quickly shared with the public through social media on Saturday, July 22.
🚨 Urgent Update 🚨
I just received a call from @NYCMayorsOffice confirming an unspecified number of migrant men will be temporarily moving into the Cooper Avenue shelter’s recreational space.
This is terrible news as the shelter has had numerous problems since it opened. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/zidNHqFT5K
— Robert Holden (@BobHoldenNYC) July 23, 2023
Legislators called the migrant influx “one of the most significant humanitarian crises New York City has ever faced” and said the city is at “a breaking point,” according to Rajkumar.
“In just two days, 54 elected officials from every borough, community, and corner of our city signed this letter requesting action from President Biden. What struck me about all 54 elected officials who signed is how much they love our city and our country,” Rajkumar told QNS. “After I released the letter, the support was overwhelming from all sides of the political spectrum. Legislators upstate asked if they could join our effort. People appreciated our bold, common-sense approach. We are unafraid of taking on the migrant crisis and saying what is common sense. I am the daughter of immigrants and I understand what the American dream means and how this crisis can be managed in a way that boosts and benefits all Americans.”