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Transcript: Mayor Adams Appears on "PBS NewsHour"

September 8, 2023

Geoff Bennett: New York City Mayor Eric Adams joins us now. Mr. Mayor, welcome back to the NewsHour.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you very much. Good to be here. 

Bennett: Let's start with a focus on New York City schools as the city's public school system as classrooms work to accommodate the nearly 20,000 newly arrived migrant children, many of whom speak little to no English, many of whom are living in shelters. First of all, how did the first couple of days of school go? And then beyond that, how is the city aiming to meet the immense need of school-aged migrant children in particular?

Mayor Adams: Well, it went well, experienced well. It’s always exciting, the beginning of the school year, watching the optimism, some crying faces leaving mommy for the first time. But it was extremely, extremely smooth transition ending summer. And you know, when you talk about the 20,000 unsheltered children, a large number of them are migrant asylum seekers. We already had 18,000 last year. We need to be clear on that. And we absorbed those 18,000. And we're continuing to do what's right. And you know, it is exciting when you see a child into the school system at the beginning of the year not speaking English at all, but leaving at the end of the year able to communicate in English, learning new ways of learning and interacting and embracing new friends. So we're going to continue to do our job to educate the scholars and these young people.

Bennett: Does the city have the capacity and resources to do what you say you want to do, which is to help those young people?

Mayor Adams: We need more, we've been extremely clear on this. New York City has been carrying this burden for the most part on its own. We commend the governor and the $1 billion she got in the last budget that we have to spend down on. But when you look at what it's costing the city in not only dollars and cents, but also in man and woman power, it is an awesome responsibility. We were creative this year to allow those teachers who are Spanish-speakers or dual language to leave their current assignment if they desire to do so to use their tenure and not lose their tenure. This was a technical issue that we were able to overcome with the state’s help. And so we're gonna always need more to, you know, address this major issue that we're facing here in New York City.

Bennett: Let's talk a bit more about some of the short-term solutions because New York is trying to unwind the rights to shelter mandate in court citing the strain that the influx of migrants has put on this system, both you and the governor of New York want the federal government to expedite work permits so that migrants can support themselves and not be as dependent on the city and state for basic services. What more could the White House do, unilaterally, in your view, to help you deal with the pressure and strain on public resources?

Mayor Adams: One thing, we need to be extremely clear… This is unfair to migrants, it's unfair to New York City residents. It is unfair to this entire country when you're looking at what's happening in big cities across America. Chicago just acknowledging they're moving their migrants out of police precincts and into tents. The same thing you're seeing in Los Angeles in other parts. El Paso, Brownsville, this is just wrong. And what we believe the federal government could do is just simply one have a real decompression strategy all over the entire country so cities are not absorbing this issue. And particularly in those areas when you’re having these major concerns, there should be a state of emergency that the federal government is calling to make sure that we are getting the support to the cities right away. 

And this is within the control of the federal government. And then we need to expedite this labor-intensive process of allowing people to have the right to work. And I believe we need to extend the TPS status to give them the right to grow so they can provide for their own care. This is all they’re asking. Migrants are asking to be able to work like every other American that came to this country. That's the precursor to the American dream. And if we don't do that, we are harming not only the migrants, we’re creating a black market of employees and workers that is extremely harmful and dangerous to this city and this country.

Bennett: You are facing some criticism for saying at that town hall this past week that the migrant crisis will, quote, destroy New York City. There are Democrats who accuse you of sounding like a Republican. There are immigration advocates who say that those comments in many ways villainize migrants. What exactly did you mean with those remarks, and also by saying that the city we knew, we're about to lose?

Mayor Adams: Well, let's be clear, I did not say migrants will destroy the city. This crisis is going to harm migrants, and it's going to harm long term New Yorkers. We are all in this together. And many of those who are criticizing this, have not spent a night in a migrant humanitarian relief center. They have not been down at the hotels, they have not communicated with family members who have lost loved ones. I see on the ground what is happening, this is going to be a $12 billion price tag over three years. 

This is going to have a major impact on migrants, the delivery of services to them, the delivery of services to long-time New Yorkers who are already struggling. We need to be clear on that. We already had a homeless population, we already had low income New Yorkers that were struggling to feed themselves amd to stay in their homes. We are going to transform this city, if this is not under control, with a price tag of $12 billion. During a time we're going to have a fiscal cliff of federal dollars running out and dealing with the financial challenges we are already facing. If we don't get this right, it is going to destroy this city, and it is going to harm them. I cannot sugarcoat this to the New York City public. They need to know what we are facing right now.

Bennett: Let me ask you this, because there are leaders of border states who say if this migrant influx is a national crisis, as you say it is, why shouldn't New York, why shouldn’t Los Angeles and Chicago have to help shoulder this burden? Why should it all be the responsibility of Texas alone?

Mayor Adams: And they are right and I join them. That's why I went down to El Paso. I communicated with the mayor of Brownsville, I have communicated with the mayor of Houston. They are 100 percent correct. I share that with them. And that is why those Republicans that have blocked immigration reform for years and have gotten in the way of real immigration reform, we came close at one time. Yes, this is a problem that the national government must resolve. I say this over and over again. No city should be carrying the weight of a national problem. And so I agree with them 100 percent that no city should be going through this. And when you look at the numbers that are coming here to New York City, over 110,000 into our system, we're getting 10,000 a month. That's not sustainable, and it's unfair to those who came here to pursue the American dream.

Bennett: New York City Mayor Eric Adams, we appreciate your time.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Take care.


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