Cities facing costs of migrant influx could benefit from federal aid

Washington DC has allocated $10 million for a new Office of Migrant Services. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker issued a Disaster Emergency Proclamation on Wednesday, an action that will free up transportation, housing and medical services for the approximately 600 asylum seekers who arrived in the state in over the past few weeks.

At least 13,000 migrants have been transported to Washington, New York and Chicago since April from Texas and Arizona. About 50 were sent by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, this week. Immigrant rights groups and Democratic officials have widely criticized the relocation effort as an inhuman political stunt.

Lack of notice and already growing homeless populations in major US cities are stressing social services.

“It’s not something we budgeted for, but it’s something we need to do,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said earlier this month. “These are human beings — moms and dads, young children, elders — who deserve our respect and dignity. They are not commodities. They are not movable property. They are human beings like you and me.

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New York isn’t short on resources, Adams said when asked about CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“We will follow the law and our moral obligations and responsibilities,” he said. “It’s going to be tough – we’ve had some difficulty doing it – but we’re required by law here in New York City.”

The White House is helping cities that have taken in relocated migrants, with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials on site to coordinate federal support administration efforts, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. . She added that funds are available to local governments and non-profit organizations through FEMA’s emergency food and shelter program to support humanitarian assistance to migrants.

“We will continue to do what we can as a federal government to support these cities as we rebuild our asylum processing system after it was gutted by the Trump administration,” she said. declared. “In response to these Republican officials’ repeated attempts to cause chaos and confusion at the border, we are working to manage the consequences.”

The White House did not provide specific numbers on the amount of aid available to cities.

Democratic U.S. Senators from California and Illinois, Alex Padilla and Dick Durbin, led a group of lawmakers calling on Senate Appropriations Committee leadership to provide additional humanitarian assistance funding for the food and beverage program. FEMA emergency shelters under the government’s upcoming interim funding bill.

“Congress has an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to protecting migrants and the right to seek refuge by extending funding,” the group wrote in the letter, saying the legislature “must ensure communities have the necessary tools to treat migrants fairly and humanely”. as they flee violence and instability.

New York is trying to mount real-time support to shelter, educate and provide health care to the migrant rush. In fiscal year 2022, the city spent about $135.83 a day for people living in single-adult facilities and $186.01 for those living in family-run facilities, according to the mayor’s management report. The city said it is complicated to estimate the total cost of handling migrants, as some of them do not end up in the accommodation system and may be accommodated in hotels.

“For months, this administration, single-handedly, has safely and effectively provided shelter, healthcare, education and a host of other services,” said Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for Adams. . “We have spoken to the federal government about reimbursement.”

Chicago, which began preparing for the potential arrival of migrants weeks before buses unexpectedly arrived at Union Station, is seeking additional financial assistance to help ease some of the cost burden.

Even with the added pressure, the mayors are encouraging the Biden administration to continue welcoming refugees. Adams, Lightfoot and the mayors of about 30 cities sent a letter Friday to Biden asking the president to maintain the refugee admissions goal of 125,000 in 2023 and to strengthen humanitarian programs.

“As cities and counties across the country, we are at the forefront of welcoming refugees and integrating immigrants into our communities,” the mayors said in the letter. “We know from experience that we all benefit from the tenacity, courage, diversity and skills that refugees bring.

Of course, while the logistics are overwhelming, it may be too early to tell if this will result in a financial burden. America’s largest cities have budgets in the tens of billions and many, despite having federal stimulus funds, have also received revenues that have exceeded forecasts.

Relocation programs have also cost Arizona and Texas dearly. Gov. Greg Abbott’s costs reached more than $12 million by mid-August. Arizona, which began sending asylum seekers to Washington in May, spent $3 million in the program’s first three months.

Florida lawmakers have allocated $12 million in the state budget to “facilitate the transportation of authorized aliens from this state,” raising questions about DeSantis’ use of those funds for the Martha’s Vineyard relocation, according to the Washington Post. Two Democratic state lawmakers said Friday they would ask the legislature to order DeSantis to “stop his inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money,” the newspaper reported.

“I can’t imagine a less useful use of money,” said Linda Bilmes, professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “That money could be spent on turning immigrants into useful and productive members of the economy.”

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