Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among those criticizing New York City's Democratic Mayor Eric Adams for comments he made this week demonizing asylum-seekers and other migrants.
The latest conflagration kicked off by Mayor Adams, the former police officer turned politician, began Wednesday night when he charged that an influx of migrants would "destroy New York City" as he lamented that he could "not see an ending" to the perceived crisis and said the federal government must do more to help.
Defenders of refugee and migrant rights, however, pushed back after video of the remarks spread on social media.
In a Twitter post on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez castigated Adams. While agreeing that the Biden administration should "step up" to do more, she said that solutions to the growing number of migrants do exist but that "Alienating people isn't one of them."
"A core issue we have is not solely the presence of asylum seekers," continued Ocasio-Cortez. "They want to work and New Yorkers want to hire them. It’s that goverment is forcing people to remain on public systems [because] we won’t let them work and support themselves, which is all they want. Work authorizations and extending [temporary protected status (TPS)] can do a lot here."
But, she said, the divisive rhetoric like that from Mayor Adams "puts solutions even further away, and only escalates tensions and obstacles."
"This dangerous rhetoric is something you’d expect from fringe politicians on the far-right of the political spectrum, not from the mayor of a city that has always welcomed and celebrated its diverse and critically important immigrant community."
Ocasion-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, was far from Adams' only critic.
Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, which advocates for the rights and dignity of migrants and asylum-seekers in the city, said his group was deeply concerned about the Mayor's comments.
"We call upon Mayor Adams to clarify and reconsider his statements, and we urge him to engage in meaningful dialogue with organizations and experts in the field to gain a deeper understanding of the complex issues surrounding migration," said Jozef. "We further extend an invitation to Mayor Adams and his administration to collaborate with us and other organizations to ensure that New York City continues to uphold the principles of diversity, equity, and justice for all."
City Councilmember Tiffany Cabán of Queens joined the chorus of rebuke by calling Adams' comments nothing by "repugnant MAGA garbage," a reference to the anti-immigrant ideology of former President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans. Further evidence that the Mayor's comments were more in line with the GOP than the Democratic Party to which he belongs, several high-profile Republicans, including far-right presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy applauded the remarks.
Redmond Haskins, a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless, toldThe Gothamist newspaper the comments were "reckless and unproductive fear-mongering" by the Mayor.
"This dangerous rhetoric is something you’d expect from fringe politicians on the far-right of the political spectrum, not from the mayor of a city that has always welcomed and celebrated its diverse and critically important immigrant community," said Haskins.
Sawyer Hackett, a Democratic strategist and consultant, said of Adams, "This is not a person any elected Democrat should take messaging advice from."
In her critique, Ocasio-Cortez said anyone who continues to ignore the root cause of asylum-seekers arriving in the U.S. due to poverty, safety concerns, or political instability in their own countries is missing a key aspect of the issue.
"If we want to reduce the number of asylum seekers in general, we have to make U.S. foreign policy part of this conversation," the congresswoman said. "We must discuss U.S. policy in Latin America, which often goes ignored by politicians and media alike, despite the fact that it's a major factor."