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New York governor wants to spend $2.4 billion to help deal with migrant influx in new budget proposal

Kathy Hochul will head to Washington this week to meet with the Biden administration to discuss the migrant influx — one of many such visits she has had over the last several months

A Venezuelan migrant with her children in Midtown, New York, on January 8.
A woman with her two children, who told reporters they arrived today from Venezuela, stands outside the makeshift shelter and processing center for newly arrived migrants at the Roosevelt Hotel in the Midtown section of New York City, U.S., January 8, 2024.SHANNON STAPLETON (REUTERS)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday that she wants to spend $2.4 billion to help deal with the massive influx of migrants who have overwhelmed New York City’s homeless shelters — addressing a damaging political issue for Democrats in her proposed state budget.

The migrant spending plan came as part of a $233 billion budget proposal from the governor’s office that will kick off months of negotiations with legislative leaders.

How the governor planned to deal with migrants, some 70,000 of whom are in the care of New York City, had been a looming question ahead of the legislative session. She did not tackle the issue in her State of the State address last week and the word “migrant” wasn’t mentioned in her detailed 181-page policy plan book.

On Tuesday, she unveiled a plan to provide shelter services, legal assistance and more for asylum-seekers, and reiterated calls for the federal government to provide more assistance to the state.

“We’re doing this not just because it’s the right thing to do for the migrants and for the city of New York,” Hochul said at the state Capitol. “We also know that companies won’t do business in New York if there are thousands of people sleeping on the streets, or the quality of life is dramatically impacted because the city is forced to cut essential services.”

The issue has the potential to damage Democratic congressional candidates in New York this fall, with key suburban races in the state expected to heavily count toward which party controls the U.S. House. Republicans have been lobbing steady criticism at President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats over federal immigration policy, with the subject already touching races in New York.

“We have a Democratic administration in Washington that hasn’t addressed the border crisis, has not secured the border,” Assembly Republican Minority Leader Will Barclay told reporters. “I’m not thrilled to have to spend any money on the migrant crisis.”

Hochul’s plan would earmark $2.4 billion for short-term shelter services, health care and pay for larger-scale emergency housing centers that have been set up to deal with the influx of asylum seekers. It would also be used to pay for legal assistance to help migrants through the asylum and work-permitting process.

The governor told reporters she will head to Washington this week to meet with the Biden administration to discuss the migrant influx — one of many such visits she has had over the last several months.

“Until we see a change in federal policy that slows the flow of new arrivals, we’re going to be swimming against the tide,” Hochul said.

The proposed budget also provided Hochul a chance to elaborate on several policy proposals she announced last week.

She asked for $35.3 billion in education funding, in part to expand universal prekindergarten programs in school districts across the state, and said she wants $40 million for a plan to crack down on retail theft. Separately, she said spending on Medicaid would reach $35.5 billion, which would mark an increase from last year driven by greater enrollment. The deadline for adopting a state budget is April 1.

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