President Joe Biden made his first trip to the southern border in two years after mounting political pressure to deal with the immigration crisis, which places like New York City have been the epicenter of for several months. His trip prompted NYC Mayor Eric Adams to also travel down south this past weekend and connect with fellow Democratic Mayor of El Paso Oscar Leeser.  

Biden, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas went to El Paso in Texas on Jan. 8 for the first border visit of his presidency. He spoke about immigration challenges and toured the area with local officials. “They need a lot of resources,” said Biden while on the ground at Doniphan Park, “and we’re going to get it for them.”

Biden later announced new enforcement measures to slow the flow of asylum seekers crossing the southern border from countries like Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Looking outside-in, many advocates felt this was a hypocritical move and have denounced Biden’s plans to limit asylum seekers coming into the country. The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) said that Biden’s plans will “cruelly favor” asylum seekers with family connections and financial privilege. 

“This plan needlessly endangers the lives of those crossing the border in search of basic freedom in our country, and succumbs to the fearmongering espoused by anti-immigrant conservatives,” said NYIC Executive Director Murad Awawdeh in a statement. “President Biden must stop the hypocrisy of his immigration policies, and instead proudly stand up for all refugees and asylum seekers as he has always professed to do.” 

However, Adams, who has been very vocal about the financial strain the asylum seeker crisis has had on the city’s resources, considered Biden’s plan a “positive step.” He has publicly chastised Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott and more recently Democratic Governor of Colorado Jared Polis for busing asylum seekers to New York City without warning or coordinated efforts.

In a statement, he said that the city has “far surpassed our moral and legal mandates” to serve more than 36,000 asylum seekers. He maintained that Biden’s measures would safely and legally allow more people into the country in a more “controlled manner.” He advocated for a long-term solution to manage the crisis better and that allowances be made for long-awaited immigration reforms. 

Then on Sunday, Jan. 15, Adams and members of his administration traveled to El Paso to meet with Leeser, visit a local shelter—Sacred Heart Church, and tour a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing facility. 

In a briefing, Leeser added that they had visited the airport and the Greyhound station where hundreds of asylum seekers had been sleeping. The numbers of people coming into El Paso have indeed paused, but both mayors said that by no means signifies an end to the issue.

“We’ve had the president, we’ve had eight senators and now we have the mayor of New York coming down here,” said Leeser. “We had over 54,000 people coming to our country through El Paso … that’s a federal issue, and … the immigration process is broken and … we need to continue to find a way of not putting a Band-Aid on it and coming [up] with a solution. Because we need to be able to change the narrative that’s going on in our country.” 

Adams said there are still thousands of people a week arriving in New York City seeking asylum. 

“This is a man-made crisis that is going to take men and women across this country to solve and I’m going to extend my hand to the mayors across this country to say ‘together, we did not create this problem, but together, we will find solutions,’” said Adams at the briefing. “But those solutions must be implemented by the federal government. I’m extremely disappointed in what we have done to the cities of this country and the impression that we are not seeing the level of urgency of getting this issue resolved. I see the urgency. Mayor, you see the urgency as well.”

Adams said pointedly that this is a “real leadership moment” for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in terms of it being a national crisis and that there should be a federal coordinator to deal with migrants and asylum seekers in the country. 
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.

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