Governor Hochul: “I never cease to be amazed by the depth of compassion by the people sitting here, volunteers … National Guard members at home in their normal jobs with their families willing to come here to New York and put themselves out there to be that human face for people in crisis. So, thank you.”
Hochul: “But to those who question even why this is happening, this is New York. You need to remember this is New York. We celebrate our diversity. We celebrate who we are. We would not be this state if we were not open to immigrants from around the world. That’s the beauty of New York … That’s the American story. That is who we are. That is what we cherish, and we will get through this together because New Yorkers always rise up together to the envy of everyone else.”
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul deployed an additional 150 members of the New York National Guard to support the ongoing response to the asylum seeker and migrant crisis. Because of this new deployment, the state will be able to assign 250 National Guard personnel the full-time responsibilities of case management professionals. This deployment, along with the $50 million state investment in case management thus far, will help asylum seekers and migrants file the appropriate paperwork to attain legal work status and exit taxpayer-funded shelters.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Before I give updates on our actions to resolve the migrant and asylum seeker challenges, I’d like to address another problem originating from Congressional Republicans. We are literally starting the countdown clock to what could be a government shutdown five days from right now. There are roughly 51,000 federal employees living in New York, and depending on what agency they work for and their classification, they’re all in danger of being furloughed by the federal government unless they’re essential employees. There’ll be an immediate economic impact on their families, and this will have significant impacts on the health and safety of New Yorkers. Women and children, those most in need of help and support, will suffer the worst effects of a government shutdown.
What am I talking about? Section 8 housing vouchers and transfers won’t happen. Food inspections will not happen. Funding that gives benefits, food benefits for pregnant mothers and infants and children will run out. Run out, if the Republicans don’t act now. Literally taking foods from the mouths of babies.
A government shutdown will also create significant delays in getting disaster aid from those recovering from the storms on the East Coast, particularly here in New York. As well as it threatens vital aid as far away as places as Hawaii, in the aftermath of the fires that ravaged that beautiful place. It also means that new federal funds will not be available to help states like New York deal with the asylum seekers crisis.
But guess what? We’re better than that here in New York. We’ll find a way through this. And we’ve been leading on the migrant situation because Republicans in Washington have failed time and time again to just roll up their sleeves, work with Democrats, work with the President, and have real, meaningful immigration reform. And if they fail on leading the government and the House of Representatives and shut down government too, we’ll find a way to keep Lady Liberty still standing in the harbor with the lights still on. We’ll pick it up if we have to.
But right now, I’m just calling on New Yorkers. Reach out to your federal representatives, especially those who are represented by Republicans because they have the power to go to Washington, talk to the Speaker, talk to their leadership, and say, “Don’t do this to my state.” They’ve been through enough. So, get back to Washington, do the jobs that the voters sent you to do, and stop playing with the future of this country and our state. That is my message today.
And now I’d like to talk about New York’s role in assisting with the migrant crisis. As I’ve talked about before, we’re facing two real challenges simultaneously. One is a humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have left their homes. Homes that were ravaged by violence, political corruption, starvation, an economy brought to its knees. And they’ve come here in search of one thing. One thing. That’s the ability to work. Work leads them to a better life to be able to take care of their kids. So, we have that crisis unfolding. We’ve been talking about this for a long time. And we’re feeling the effects here in New York.
But on the other hand, we have a shortage of workers crisis. Since I’ve been Governor two years, unemployment has decreased 42 percent from 6.9 percent to 3.9. Ordinarily, those are good numbers. That’s less than 4 percent. I only saw that a few times in my life. But what that means is businesses from as far north as the business council meeting I was at on Friday, to the western New York, to New York City, to Long Island, that’s all anybody’s talking about in business – we don’t have enough workers. And literally, people coming up to me at this statewide meeting of businesses saying, “Governor, can you send me some of the migrants? I need them to work.” So, we can do this. We have the need and the demand, we match them together, and that’s how you take a crisis and turn into an opportunity. And that’s what I’m most excited about. And we have over 400,000 open jobs right now. Everything from farms to construction to restaurants, hotels, nursing homes and hospitals. My gosh, they could use workers, right now.
So today, I’m going to be talking about some of our new resources that we’re deploying to, again, turn these challenges into opportunities. And I want to acknowledge the individuals who’ve been really at the forefront of being the face of New York’s efforts to help with this crisis, to help the City of New York get through this. Major General Ray Shields of the New York National Guard. I want to thank you. We just saw each other two weeks ago, preparing for a hurricane – see you during blizzards and flooding events. And I was just speaking to your leadership team and talking about how normally we deal with crises wrought by Mother Nature, but right now we’re dealing with a crisis wrought by man’s cruelty to man. What is going on in people’s home countries, driving them to flee. Thank you. Thank you and all the people you represent. Extraordinary work. I never cease to be amazed by the depth of compassion by the people sitting here, volunteers. This is a volunteer call. National Guard members at home in their normal jobs with their families willing to come here to New York and put themselves out there to be that human face for people in crisis. So, thank you.
I thank all the members of the National Guard. I also want to recognize someone who’s been helping us manage this military-style operation to respond, and that is our Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Jackie Bray, and we’ve been through a lot together as well. You name the storm, we’ve been side by side, and I am so confident of your leadership and the path that you’ve put us on.
So, as I sat and talked to some of the National Guard leadership, we were talking about, what’s it like? You’re out there. You’re the first person they see when they arrive, and they get dropped off. Doing the intake at the Roosevelt Hotel. Seeing people with trauma in their eyes and children crying. It’s extraordinary. And now you’re part of the effort to help them be able to leave those shelters, get tracked, the casework, to understand who has what options before them, and help them be on that path to the life that they sought. And so today, under my leadership and under my direction, New York National Guard will deploy an additional 150 members to support the Asylum Seeker Mission. That brings our total to 2,200 National Guard members supporting the overall mission and what this will allow us to do – 250 National Guard members will focus solely on case management.
And ultimately, the process, now that we have the opportunity granted by President Biden, to help the Venezuelans who came before July 31st be able to apply for Temporary Protective Status. And what follows that, literally with the same application, is the work authorization. That coveted work authorization, that’s their ticket to the American Dream. So, you’ll be helping them get a job, helping them support themselves, helping them leave these shelters, because I believe they did not come all these thousands of miles to live in a shelter with hundreds, if not thousands, of others.
So, the National Guard has already started work to survey them. We have different categories. Some people are eligible to work right now. If they already came in through the Customs and Border Protection app, there are people qualified for that. There are parolees eligible to work. There are the asylum seekers who need to apply for asylum and wait 180 days. And now we have this new category that allow the expedited work permits for Venezuelans who arrived here earlier. So, the first thing you have to do is talk to them, survey them, track the information, find out what they’re missing. Some may be here and just want a bus ticket to another state. But they don’t know where to go. We can make that happen, but you have to have those conversations. You are the individuals who are that face, having those critical conversations.
So, I’ve already invested over $50 million to support case management. It’s very labor intensive. We have people all over the state. It’s not just the five boroughs. We have people up in Albany and Buffalo and Rochester and elsewhere. And we also have to support the legal services to make sure they can legally apply and not be missing any paperwork that will delay them. We have given funds directly to Health + Hospitals, New York City’s Asylum Help Center, and local nonprofits all over the state. And right now, we are building up an infrastructure, starting with my request to the Department of Labor to start matching eligible asylum seekers with the employers – a portal, we’ll be talking more about how this is being operationalized at an event probably next week.
But doubling down on these efforts after an intensive lobbying effort with the White House and the collaboration that resulted with President Biden being engaged in helping us with that decision on the asylum seekers just a few days ago. That is a path. It is a very strong opportunity for us to start helping some of these people.
So, when you think about what we’ve done thus far, $1.7 billion already from the state to shelter and support these asylum seekers. We’ve gone above and beyond what is legal. We’re here to help. We’ve played a major role in opening shelters and facilities, working again hand in hand with the Mayor. And right now, if you do the math, right now we contribute probably about 40 percent of the cost of the shelters, the facilities, the tents. And when we open Floyd Bennett Field and we’re absorbing all the costs of that, multiple millions it’ll grow even higher, upwards of almost 45 percent that the state is absorbing to cover the cost of sheltering.
So, we said we’d be partners, we said we’d help. It’s money, it’s facilities, locations. We’ve cleaned up many, fixed them up, got them ready, and it’s also the personnel. So again, our goal, take care of people when they arrive, show them the compassion of New Yorkers, but give them what they want, which is a quick exit out of the shelter system. And that is something we’ll be focusing on very intensely over the next couple of weeks. We are going to be able to do this with the support of the National Guard, and to make sure that we don’t leave anyone behind. Because everyone has that opportunity to find their way here in our state.
And I also just want to conclude by saying this. This could be an undaunting challenge for some. Overwhelming. And I will say I give all the credit in the world to the City of New York and Mayor Adams for what they’ve had to deal with. And the numbers continue to grow and we’re there to be their partners.
But to those who question even why this is happening, this is New York. You need to remember this is New York. We celebrate our diversity. We celebrate who we are. We would not be this state if we were not open to immigrants from around the world. That’s the beauty of New York. And if you just personalize it, every one of your parents or grandparents or great grandparents, they came from somewhere else. I speak often of the influence of my grandparents. Came here, leaving extreme poverty in Ireland. Like millions before, the potato famine drove them away. My grandparents came later. Started out as migrant farm workers. Working in the wheat fields of South Dakota. Not their idea of what they expected, but it’s what they got. First jobs. Then they were qualified enough to become domestic servants. Rising up. And ultimately, Grandpa became a steel worker. It was hot, dirty work. At the end of the day, he was exhausted. You could see the black soot on his face. Carrying that lunch pail. We used to drop him off in one car for a family of eight. But he was proud. He was proud that he could support his family, all these kids, kids who went on to become educators, school superintendents, businesspeople, and their children. Sometimes one becomes a governor.
That’s the American story. That is who we are. That is what we cherish, and we will get through this together because New Yorkers always rise up together to the envy of everyone else. Try and knock us down by a terrorism act. Think you’ve beaten us down and crushed our soul and our spirits. No, we get stronger together. A pandemic, worst place in the world for time being. Did it knock us down, take us off? No. We got stronger. And New Yorkers together will get through this. Because that’s who we are. That’s something we must never, ever forget.
And with that, I want to bring up Major General Shields to talk about his work. And again, I am forever grateful to all of you and those you represent who are out there in the unknown. But being that very human face to someone who’s just so desperate for help. Thank you. Major Shields.