Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor Adams Appears Live on MSNBC's "The Sunday Show With Jonathan Capehart"

September 10, 2023

Mayor Eric Adams: We're getting no know support on this national crisis. Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don't see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City.

[Stop video.]

Johnathan Capehart: An urgent message from New York City Mayor Eric Adams as the number of migrants who have arrived in the city since last April hits 110,000. The influx has strained resources with Mayor Adams estimating the crisis could cost potentially $12 billion over the next three years.

To help counter that, he's asking every city agency to reduce spending by up to 15 percent in the coming months. President Biden is facing calls to take federal action from Mayor Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul as well as Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson who are facing a migrant crisis of their own.

We reached out to the White House for a comment, and they provided a list of actions it's taken including assisting the state and City of New York with more than $140 million in federal funding this year as well as the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago with more than $45 million.

And joining me now is the mayor of New York City, Eric Adams. Mayor Adams, thank you for coming back to The Sunday Show. Yesterday you warned agency heads they must slash their budgets by 15 percent by next spring to compensate for the increasing cost of the migrant crisis. Is this a way to put pressure on New York State and the federal government? What was your process in making this decision?

Mayor Adams: No, not at all. And first of all, I'm glad you played that clip at the top of this conversation because there's a clear distortion that my comments were anti immigrant, anti migrant. The Trump Republicans are trying to use it as such, which is not true; and then, even the far left is trying to use it as anti immigrant.

We've done more than our share. Over 110,000 migrants have arrived in this city, 60,000 still remaining in our care. And the announcement we made yesterday is stating that we have to go and do several rounds of finding cost efficiency. Five present three times in a row, that's 15 percent we've already spent; and this year, we're going to spend up to $5 billion.

Think about that for a moment. Getting 130, $140 million on a $5 billion national price tag is not acceptable. And these efficiencies are going to come from communities that are already struggling, communities that are in need, predominately Black and brown communities. This is wrong for the migrants to go through this, and it's wrong for longstanding New Yorkers that are struggling to go through this.

Capehart: So, you've anticipated the next question I was going to ask. You think the $140 [million] is insufficient, so let me ask you about something else you've asked from the Biden Administration. You've asked them to expand temporary protected status to migrants, which would enable them to look for work and expedite the process of applying for asylum. The president's been reluctant to do so. Why do you think President Biden isn't ready to take that action?

Mayor Adams: I cannot quite explain that, but I do know this. The precursor to sleep that allows us to experience the American dream is our right to work. Every immigrant that has arrived at our shores have the ability to absorb oneself into our society by their right to work. This is so anti-American, to tell people they have to come here anywhere from up to two years sometimes and not be able to provide for themselves.

And I agree with Chicago mayor, the mayor of Los Angeles, of Houston, the governor of Massachusetts    all of us are saying a national problem should not be placed on the backs of everyday Americans. No city should be going through this, including El Paso and Brownsville.

Capehart: Well, Mayor, let me get your thoughts on some criticism on the right, because critics on the right have noted that New York City is a Sanctuary City and this migrant crisis comes with that territory. To what do you say to those who think you relinquished your right to complain about the stresses it places on your city because of that?

Mayor Adams: Well, I think that those comments coming from those far right Trump like Republicans who continue to try to distort the reality that we do not have real immigration reform, that we should allow a true decompression strategy, protect our borders in the right way and make sure that when you look at this city the status of right to shelter, of no one who created this decades ago took into account that we were talking about hundreds of thousands of people potentially coming to the city. So, we are in court now and we are looking at how do we properly address the issue, a right to shelter, and dealing with this humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

Capehart: You know, some Republican leaders initiated this crisis by busing migrants to democratic led cities like New York, and now they're using it for more political gain by highlighting your critical comments of the president. Do you have any trepidations about the political fallout New York Democrats may face in 2024 if this crisis isn't mitigated?

Mayor Adams: I had a conversation yesterday with Congressman Jeffries, the minority leader of the Democratic Party, Democratic Congressional Delegation. And he was clear as well: we know how severe this issue is to not only the City of New York but the State of New York. New York City is the economic engine of this entire state, and we need a decompression strategy in the state as well as in the city.

And I'm elected for one purpose, and that is to protect the people of New York City. And this is impacting the amazing recovery we witnessed after Covid, our economic recovery, returning jobs, making our city safer and decrease in serious violence, watching our children return to school with a new mission and goal    all of these successes are going to be hampered by what we're about to experience with the five percent cut three times in a row, which is going to equal 15 percent as well as just the infrastructure issue that's going to come with this crisis.

We're about to potentially have to move women and children to sleep in congregate settings outdoors in tents. This is unacceptable. This is not what our city stands for.

Capehart: Mayor, in response to your comments that the migrant crisis, quote, will destroy New York, is criticism from the left, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that, quote, blaming immigrants for the crisis is not leadership, and added that the White House does not need...does need to step up. We have solutions; alienating people isn't one of them. What's your response to those calling your message alienating?

Mayor Adams: Well, clearly, when you look at this city, this city is a city of immigrants. The difference in the historical role of those who came through Ellis Island, in one year we had over a million come...that actually came through Ellis Island. What they were allowed to do, they were allowed to work.

And I understand when you hear those on the far left that are stating how we're dividing the city, but the reality is, I need for them to step up. I visited the HERRCs. I spent the night in a HERRC talking to asylum seekers. I know what it takes to govern this city, and I need them to do their job in Washington D.C. and ensure that over a year and a half New York City has carried this burden alone, like other cities.

It is time for my national leaders to step up, and I'm hoping that the congresswoman would come in and walk through to see the conditions and how we cannot properly take care of those who are in these HERRCs if we don't get the resources we need, and it will potentially destroy the city if we don't get it right.

Capehart: Mr. Mayor, pardon me. What is a HERRC?

Mayor Adams: That's a Humanitarian Relief Center. We have shelters that we create, over 200 shelters we have opened, and we also have created what's called Humanitarian Relief Centers. Those are those large tents that you're seeing that's holding sometimes with up to a thousand people.

Capehart: Mr. Mayor, as you are well aware, Monday marks 22 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Any reflections on the anniversary and the nearly 3,000 lives lost on that day?

Mayor Adams: Yes. I recall greatly, I still think about it. Not only of some personal friends I lost during September 11th as well as my kid brother, who was a sergeant in the police department at the time, I was a lieutenant. And for several periods of time we were unable to connect with each other. And I was concerned, and even after I reached him I couldn't exhale, because we know hundreds and thousands lost their lives.

And it's a reminder to us all as we go through these difficult times, we reflect on September 11th tomorrow, but also remember September 12th. This city got up. When we got up, America watched us. We were Ground Zero for that terrorist attack, and we showed we were not going to flee, we were not going to run. We were going to fight and stand tall. And that's who we are right now. We have to continue to get up as we recover our country.

And I think the president is doing the job that needs to be done, and I support what he's doing, but in this issue of the migrants we need to get it right, because lives depend on [it]. 

Capehart: You know what, Mr. Mayor?  Actually let me squeeze in one more question before I let you go, on immigration. A dark horse Republican candidate for president, Vivek Ramaswamy recently said that if he were elected president he would deport American born children of undocumented immigrants despite those children being considered citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment. What do you make of that viewpoint gaining steam in mainstream Republican circles?

Mayor Adams: Well, I think that when you look at this crisis you're seeing those Trump like thinking Republicans who are taking postures like that. All of us, when we reflect and look into our past, we're going to find out that we came from somewhere. And imagine having those types of policies as you move through the history of this country.

No matter where you came from, you wanted the opportunity to experience the American dream. And he should think about that. This is the only country on the globe we have dream attached to our name. We cannot destroy it with nightmare ish type policies like that. It's unfortunate people would think that way. They should sit down with their grandparents and ask, how did they arrive here, and what did they expect when they got here, and I think he would think differently.

Capehart: The mayor of New York City, Eric Adams. As always, thank you, very much...

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Capehart: ...for coming to the Sunday show.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Capehart: And we'll be right back.


Media Contact
(212) 788-2958