STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul called on the city’s borough presidents in recent weeks to take on more responsibilities in the ongoing migrant crisis, but Staten Island’s executive wants no part, he said Wednesday.
In fact, Borough President Vito Fossella said the governor’s office hadn’t even contacted him about Hochul’s new plan calling on borough presidents to open their offices to help certain migrants get work authorizations, as reported by New York 1.
Hochul’s office did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication, but Fossella said there’s little reason for them to get in contact.
“Even if we were [contacted], I wouldn’t do it,” Fossella said. “I think that this is just one more example of a policy that has fallen out of control, and has adversely affected people who had nothing to do with it.”
The city’s four other borough executives — Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Queen Borough President Donovan Richards and Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson — all signed onto the new program that will help Venezuelan migrants here before July 31 apply for temporary protected status.
Offices of each of the four borough presidents will dedicate space for caseworkers helping the migrants apply for the protected status through April 2025 that will allow them to legally find work.
In September, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas extended the Venezuelan migrants’ opportunities for temporary protected status because of the conditions in their home country.
“Temporary protected status provides individuals already present in the United States with protection from removal when the conditions in their home country prevent their safe return,” Mayorkas said at the time. “That is the situation that Venezuelans who arrived here on or before July 31 of this year find themselves in. We are accordingly granting them the protection that the law provides. However, it is critical that Venezuelans understand that those who have arrived here after July 31, 2023 are not eligible for such protection, and instead will be removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay.”
Only a small fraction of the more-than 142,000 migrants who have made their way to the five boroughs since spring 2022 have gained work authorization, but those still in the city’s care have begun to take a noticeable financial toll on the city’s coffers.
Deputy Mayor for Communications Fabien Levy said Tuesday that the Adams administration expects a $12 billion price tag over the next three fiscal years, and some programs around the city have already felt the purse strings tighten.
The Department of Sanitation cut a longstanding curbside removal program for things like electronics, and the city has cancelled a class of school safety officers.
Fossella and Councilman Joseph Borelli (R-South Shore) have been some of the most vocal opponents to the handling of the migrant crisis, and compared the governor’s latest strategy with the general lack of power in the office of a borough president.
“Over the years, I have wanted to give borough presidents more power to weigh in on zoning, bike lanes, overdevelopment, transportation infrastructure etc., basically all things Staten Islanders deserve to have a real say [in,]” Borelli said. “But when it comes to non-citizen migrants, well suddenly the borough presidents are given responsibility. No thanks. Good luck.”