For months, as New York City staggered under the impact of more than 110,000 asylum seekers from the southern border, Mayor Eric Adams haspleaded for help from the federal government.
On Friday, a show of support arrived: At least 10 Democratic members of Congress, some from as far away as Texas and Los Angeles, took a tour of the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, where the city has been putting up about 1,000 migrant families.
The delegation, led by Representatives Adriano Espaillat and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, praised the city’s efforts, and members were optimistic about a way forward.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said there was a “consensus” among the Congress members on important issues — getting more federal aid to cities that are struggling to deal with the migrant surge, helping migrants get work authorization more quickly and extending temporary protected status for Venezuelans, who have been the largest group coming to New York.
However, a small but very loud crowd of protesters, whose shouts of “Close the border!” and “Send them back!” rendered the speeches by the Congress members nearly inaudible, signaled a different and more difficult reality facing the city.
A Republican-controlled House is unlikely to offer much help for New York. Rather, conservative-leaning politicians have been using the spiraling crisis as a talking point in their own push to secure the border and reduce immigration.
And Democrats themselves are divided.
President Biden, who faces furious pushback on border control and an upcoming re-election campaign, has made limited moves on policies New York leaders have asked for, like expedited or expanded worker permits for the newcomers. Mr. Adams has said the president has “failed” the city.
Still, Mr. Espaillat tried to sound a hopeful note. “The American dream will not be bullied into submission today,” he said over the protesters’ rising shouts on Friday, adding, “We will fight for these common-sense solutions.”
Only last week, Mr. Espaillat and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez were criticizing Mr. Adams for commenting at a town hall that the migrant issue “will destroy New York City” — a reference to the projected $12 billion cost over three years of housing the migrants.
“I don’t think they’re going to destroy the city,” Mr. Espaillat told The Hill, adding, “if that’s what he meant, then we disagree on that.” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Mr. Adams’s comment — which immediately became a Republican talking point — “puts solutions even further away and only escalates tensions and obstacles.”
Instead of criticism of Mr. Adams, Representative Jamaal Bowman of Westchester County in New York called his tour of the Roosevelt “inspiring” and praised the city for “doing herculean work.”
That work, including the transformation of more than 200 sites into migrant shelters around the city, has increasingly driven more and more heated protests. On Thursday night, hundreds of people protested against migrant shelters on Staten Island and at Floyd Bennett Field, a former airport turned park, in Brooklyn.
On Friday, just outside the metal barricades set up for the news conference, David Rem, 59, of Queens held a sign: “No work authorization! Remain in Mexico! Cierra la frontera ya — Close the border now!”
Mr. Rem said he had family in Colombia who had been waiting for seven years for an immigration hearing so they could come to the country legally. “These people are not true asylum seekers,” he said of the migrants at the hotel.
Nearby a woman held a sign that read, “Unvetted migrants put our safety in serious danger.”
At the door of the Roosevelt, migrant families came and went, trying to go about their business. Naileth Torres, 36, of Venezuela, said she had not seen the Congress members but had a message for them: “I have a child with disabilities — I need for them to help me so that he can have his therapy.”
She had one other request: that she be allowed to work. “Whatever work,” she said, as she headed down East 46th Street.