Updated Jun 29, 2023, 7:18am EDT

2024 could be an immigration election in New York

Migrants transported from the U.S. border sit on a bus waiting for relocation after arriving at the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City, U.S., October 11, 2022.
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

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The News

President Biden is in New York City on Thursday to continue his new economic pitch in an MSNBC interview as his 2024 campaign heats up. But Democrats in the area are facing a more immediate political threat that runs straight through his administration: Immigration.

In the past year, more than 60,000 migrant people have been bused in or flown to New York, which is legally committed to supplying them with housing. The city’s mayor, Eric Adams, sent some displaced migrants to the state’s more red-leaning suburbs, prompting a fierce response from Republican members of Congress whose seats are critical to the current House majority. And while some elected officials are working together across party lines on the issue, Biden and the Democratic-led state’s performance are likely to be major targets in election ads next year.

Top New York Democrats are pressing the Biden administration to extend work permits to some migrants faster as the politics of immigration in the Northeast intensify. The hope is that by getting them working and living independently more quickly, they’ll be able to relieve some of the burden on the state.

Reps. Gregory Meeks and Jerry Nadler have written to President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking that asylum-seekers be able to obtain work permits before the 180 days they’re required to wait before applying to work in the States. The letter also calls for United States Citizen and Immigration Services personnel and judges to quickly adjudicate work authorization applications.

“If you have to wait two to three years for a hearing, you should have the ability to work because that would ease the pressure on the city of New York,” Meeks told Semafor before the letter was publicized. “It would give these individuals a chance to earn a living and live a decent life.”


The remaining Democratic members of the New York delegation signed onto the letter, while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led a similar letter in May, signaling Democrats are taking the city’s recent migrant crisis seriously — because they have to.

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Kadia’s view

Migration is shaping up to replace crime as the central issue in the New York State suburbs that could determine control of the House of Representatives in 2024.

“It wasn’t an issue campaign-wise in ‘22 but it certainly is one governmentally in ‘23.” Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., told Semafor. “Mayor Adams wasn’t talking about displacing migrants from the five boroughs and putting them into Nassau or Suffolk, so it wasn’t on our doorstep per se,” he added.

Mayor Adams has sharply criticized the Biden Administration on immigration, and his words reflect a rising fear among Democrats that they need to get ahead of the issue. Rep. Pat Ryan, a Hudson Valley Democrat, joined Republican Congressmen Marc Molinaro and Mike Lawler last month to demand Biden declare a state of emergency over the migrant influx.

“Folks have public safety concerns,” Ryan told Semafor. “And right now, we don’t have the resources coming from the federal government to address it.”


Molinaro told Semafor he’d consulted repeatedly with Governor Kathy Hochul about how to address the issue, who has led bipartisan talks with the delegation.

“The people I represent see a crisis at the border, a lack of concern for the human souls that are being shuffled along by both the administration, states, and the city of New York,” he said.

But Republicans want localities to pressure Biden into backing their border bill, which recently passed the House and would severely limit asylum claims and complete the border wall, something Democrats are not expected to consider.

“Our colleagues across the aisle won’t join us in supporting border security,” Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-N.Y., told Semafor. “They voted against our border bill. They’re claiming every one of these people is an asylum seeker. That’s poppycock.”

A Quinnipiac poll in February found that 70% of New Yorkers consider the influx of migrants to the state a crisis, and 63% of New Yorkers do not believe the city has the ability to house migrant people seeking sanctuary in the city.

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Room for Disagreement

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who represents Brooklyn, told Semafor earlier this month he was working to secure funding for New York communities dealing with newly arrived migrants, but that he had “no concern” about Democrats’ 2024 prospects in New York or anywhere else.

“Democrats are not going to be restrained or constrained in our ability to draw a contrast with the people on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “We’re team normal. We’re team reasonable. We’re team gets stuff done. Republicans are team chaos, team dysfunction, and team extreme.”

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  • New York City’s Democratic mayor is already seeing a slight dip in polling amid the migrant crisis. According to a Siena College survey conducted between June 20 and June 25, Eric Adams’ favorability rating landed at 46%, down from 49% a month earlier.
  • A federal district court judge ruled against two Hudson County localities that tried to ban New York City from sending migrant people to the area, citing a “discriminatory motive.”