(The Center Square) — A New York congresswoman is seeking a ban on using national park facilities to house asylum-seekers as the state wrestles with tens of thousands of migrants.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-Staten Island/South Brooklyn, said she plans to file a proposal in the House — with bipartisan support — that would prevent the state or federal government from housing migrants at locations like Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island or Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, which was named as a site earlier this week.
"We’re a compassionate city, but this is ridiculous," she said in remarks at a Wednesday briefing. "This is beyond compassion. This is ludicrous."
Malliotakis criticized the Biden administration's response to a surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border, and called on the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a border security bill approved by the GOP-led House in May, or propose similar legislation.
“What we’re trying to say is ‘secure the border,'" she said Wednesday. "We would love for [Sen. Chuck] Schumer to actually pass our bill, and if you don’t like our bill, for whatever reason, pass your own bill, but do something."
On Wednesday, Malliotakis was joined by other Staten Island officials opposing using the former Fort Wadsworth military base as a homeless shelter for about 300 migrants relocated to New York City. The officials raised concerns ranging from security to the financial impact on local schools and limited municipal resources.
Last week, Staten Island elected officials sent a letter to federal and state leaders demanding the relocation plan be scrapped, pointing to the site’s historic importance as part of the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area and the main staff base for the U.S. Coast Guard.
"The audacity to even consider transforming such a culturally significant and operationally strategic National Historic Landmark into a migrant shelter is an affront to service members and local residents," they wrote.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has been negotiating with the Biden administration for approval to house asylum-seekers at federal properties across the state, many of them national parks. She announced this week that the Interior Department has agreed to lease space to the state at Floyd Bennett Field to provide shelter for about 2,000 migrants.
More than 100,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in New York City over the past year, straining an already overburdened emergency shelter system and causing friction between Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Adams says the city is caring for more than 60,000 migrants at more than 200 emergency shelter locations across the city. He said the cost of providing shelter, food and other necessities for migrants is expected to top $12 billion. He has pushed for more federal and state funding.
A poll released earlier this week found a majority of New Yorkers believe the influx of migrants into the state is a "serious" problem and fault the state's Democratic leadership for not doing enough to deal with the crisis.