The following is the transcript of an interview with New York City Mayor Eric Adams that aired on “Face the Nation” on May 21, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to New York City and its Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat. Mr. Mayor, good morning to you.
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS: Morning to you as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said that the President and the White House have failed New York City and that you don’t have access to federal dollars to deal with the migrant crisis. But the administration reportedly has pledged $30 million to deal with those arrivals. Why the discrepancy?
MAYOR ADAMS: I don’t think that’s a discrepancy. We’ve spent over a billion dollars, we’re projected to spend close to $4.3 billion, if not more. This estimate was based on a number of migrants coming into the city, and those numbers have clearly increased. We are getting- we’ve received several days last week alone over 900 migrants on days. A week- over two weeks ago, approximately 4,200 in one week. When you look at the price tag, 30 million dollars comes nowhere near what the city is paying for a national problem.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are getting federal help, it’s just not sufficient to the needs you have?
MAYOR ADAMS: Well, we’ve been extremely transparent what the needs are when a city that just cycled out of the financial crisis of COVID is now hit with an additional over a billion dollars in our budget, and potentially four point- over 4 billion dollars in the out years- that is not the price tag that is attached to what is caused to handle this national problem.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, it’s New York City’s own laws that require it to give anyone who seeks shelter a shelter, and Republicans often zero in on the sanctuary city definitions as a migrant magnet. Is that law or those regulations what’s bringing migrants to New York City?
MAYOR ADAMS: Well, let’s be clear, the migrants and asylum seekers are paroled into the country through CF- through CFO- through border- Customs Border Patrol. That is totally different from those who come to the country without any documentation, and that’s the definition when you look at sanctuary- sanctuary cities. The problem is that Republicans for far too many years have failed to deal with real immigration reform. This is a national issue. No city should go- be going through this, including El Paso, Brownsville. When I went to El Paso, Texas, and saw what was happening there, I raised the same concern. This should not be the burning of Chicago, Washington, Houston, Denver and New York City. That is what we want to focus on. How do we have real comprehensive immigration reform? And how do we have a real decompression strategy? And we really need to allow the migrants, asylum seekers, to be able to have work status, so that they can actually work in various areas that we’re looking for employment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have started to bus migrants upstate within New York, and that has kicked off some legal disputes, I understand, with some of those counties. You just talked about decompression. Have you asked the governor, who is a fellow Democrat, to- to help you find housing for these migrants elsewhere in the state.
MAYOR ADAMS: Yes, she has been a real partner, as well as Senator Schumer, Congressman Jeffries and the New York delegation. They have been extremely helpful in trying to, number one, get the dollars coming out of Washington, D.C., but also the governor here and coordinating our efforts. We are continuing to ask her to help us find space throughout the state. But New York City, again, is the economic engine of the state and the country. We believe the entire state should participate in a decompression strategy, and it’s unfortunate that there has- there have been some lawmakers and counties that are not carrying on their role of ensuring that this is a decompression strategy throughout the state. And sometimes we have witnessed in some municipalities, where they lied and stated that veterans were being forced out of hotels, which was untrue, and found out to be fabricated. So these types of tactics are just anti-American and anti-New York City.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re talking about some of those news headlines that the New York State Attorney General’s Office is now examining allegations that those reports were completely false. And you’re saying right there that that was not happening. But on the question of decompression, would it be more helpful if it was the federal government directing where migrants are moved to throughout the United States instead of you, as New York City’s Mayor, trying to figure out where you can send them within your state?
MAYOR ADAMS: Yes, it would. We have 108,000 cities, villages, towns. If everyone takes a small portion of that, and if it’s coordinated at the border, to ensure that those who are coming here to this country in a lawful manner is actually moved throughout the entire country, it is not a burden on one city. And the numbers need to be clear. We received over 70,000 migrant asylum seekers in our city, 42,000 are still in our care. If this is properly handled at the border level, this issue can be resolved while we finally get Congress, particularly the Republican Party, to deal with a comprehensive immigration policy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But have you asked the federal government? Have you asked Homeland Security, have you asked President Biden to figure this out in terms of what you’re talking about? Take migrants from the border and move them throughout the United States, so they’re not just landing in cities like yours?
MAYOR ADAMS: I traveled to Washington several times, I had a conversation with FEMA about a financial allocation and proper resources to the city and communications with the White House on several occasions. I’ve- I’ve communicated with our congressional delegation, who clearly understands how important this issue is. So yes, we’ve had numerous conversations to resolve this issue in a real way. And it’s just, again, unfair to the city of New York and all about cities to carry the burden of a national problem.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, and there is no federal decompression strategy that you’re talking about there. Do you think going into the 2024 election, that the issue of immigration is a political vulnerability for Democrats and the President? Do they need to talk about it more?
MAYOR ADAMS: Well, I am clear that every time we talk about this issue, people talk about politics, I’m talking about people, human beings, I’m talking about people who come to the country–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood
MAYOR ADAMS: I’m talking about people who are spending many hours taking care of them. And I’m talking about the people of my city, who- they are watching this city being transformed by not having the proper resources and the proper planning, I believe, to get this done. So this is about people, the same people I protected for 22 years as a police officer. I’m concerned about them now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood, understood. I’m asking you that though, because we see CBS polling that shows Republicans and Democrats get blamed for not solving this issue. But there’s a growing perception that the President is not tough enough. An increasing majority of Americans are calling for the administration to be tougher, that’s 41% of Democrats. You know, there have been a lot of articles saying your public criticisms of the President have irritated the White House, and that is why you are not on his campaign advisory board. Why have you gone public? Is your private prodding going on deaf ears?
MAYOR ADAMS: Well, no, I’m- I’m going public because I have one role here in the city, and that is to protect New Yorkers. That’s what I was elected to do. That’s what I did throughout my entire adult life and create a safe environment for our city. I have several conversations, as I indicated with the White House and other electives, both nationally and locally. We have to resolve this issue, and as you stated, the poll clearly indicates Republicans and Democrats- the Republicans have- Republicans have blocked comprehensive immigration reform. While we’re doing that, I have a crisis here in this city that I love, iand a city that- the people of this the people of this city deserve to get the support that they need.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m gonna ask one other issue. There has been a lot of national attention about that tragic event on the New York City subway. Jordan Neely, who was homeless and struggled with mental health issues, was forcibly restrained and then choked by a subway rider named Daniel Penny. He lost his life. Why do you think that the system you have in place to deal with homelessness and to deal with mental health failed Jordan Neely?
MAYOR ADAMS: When you do an examination, just as I talked about public safety issues, and how we’re to get guns that were clearly saturating our cities, so too, in October and prior to that, I’ve talked about how we must look at involuntary removal of those who are- cannot take care of their basic needs and are a danger to themselves. You know, it breaks my heart how Jordan lost his life, who happens to have the same name as my son, and our focus should be on how he died. And we need to look at how he lived and ensure that the other Jordans out there receive the care they deserve. I spend many days in the subway system talking to those who are in that condition. And if we don’t get help from the state government to ensure that we can use involuntary removals with those who are in danger to themselves and can’t take care of basic needs, we may be facing a potential problem like this again, and that’s what we need to do. We need to make sure that we go after those other Jordan Neely’s that are there looking for care.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Mayor, thank you for your time this morning.
MAYOR ADAMS: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.