NYC mayor doubles down on criticism of Colorado, federal government over migrants

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NEW YORK — For the second day in a row, New York City Mayor Eric Adams laced into the federal government and the governor of Colorado, a fellow Democrat, over busloads of asylum seekers who continue to arrive at the city’s doorstep.

“At one time we had to deal with Republican governors sending migrants to New York,” Adams said Wednesday during an unrelated press conference. “Now we’re dealing with Democratic governors sending migrants to New York. This is just unfair.”

A day earlier, Adams had criticized Governor Jared Polis for sending asylum seekers to places like Chicago and New York. The latter has already seen an influx of more than 30,000 migrants since the spring.

Shortly afterward, in an interview with POLITICO, the Colorado governor said that around 70 percent of migrants arriving in Denver have final destinations elsewhere in the country, including New York, and that his office was working with Denver officials to help them on their way.

The process has been going on for weeks, he added, but last month’s winter storm caused a backlog of asylum seekers who have been stuck in the Mile High City and only now able to leave.

How many people have traveled from Denver to the five boroughs is unclear. The Colorado governor’s office was not able to provide POLITICO with numbers. And while the mayor spoke with his counterpart in Denver last week, City Hall Spokesperson Fabien Levy said Adams only learned about the extent of the arrivals Monday during a call with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

New York City has a similar program to send asylum seekers to other cities if their final destination is elsewhere. Levy said the Adams administration attempts to connect travelers to organizations, family members or services on the other end, but that some of the arrivals from Colorado have ended up in the New York City shelter system.

The influx of asylum seekers crossing the southern border intensified toward the end of the year as a Trump-era policy known as Title 42 — which allowed the federal government to expel migrants as Covid-19 precaution — was expected to expire. The Supreme Court, however, blocked that expiration in a ruling last week.

Regardless, the strain on the social safety nets of cities around the country has begun to sow divisions within the Democratic Party.

On Tuesday, Lightfoot called Colorado's move "inhumane" — an assessment Adams said he shared.

“You're damn right I [agree]," he said during Wednesday's press conference. "For the governor of Colorado to say that I’m going to push the problem to the city — and didn’t even notify us … this is just unacceptable."

A spokesperson for Polis, however, said that Colorado was honoring the wishes of asylum seekers who often have been traveling for months. And while officials in Denver have made it clear that migrants are welcome to say, many are looking to go elsewhere.

"If the mayor is insinuating that people are being 'sent' like Republican governors have been doing, that is simply incorrect," the governor's spokesperson Conor Cahill said in a statement. "We respect the agency and authority of migrants to make their own decisions about where they are going."

"That being said," he added," we share the mayor's passion for federal immigration reform and look forward to partnering with him to continue urging Congress and the White House to get something done immediately."

Indeed, despite their disagreements about busing, all three leaders expressed frustration at a lack of federal coordination from lawmakers and the Biden Administration.

"Why don’t you tell the federal government to fix this mess they’ve created?" Adams said Wednesday, addressing critics of his administration. "It’s unacceptable and I’m not going to sit back and allow New Yorkers to carry the burden of a man-made crisis. This must be fixed."