In a significant legislative move, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill prohibiting the use of federal lands for housing immigrants who have illegally crossed the southern border.
The bill, initiated by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, aims to address the burgeoning crisis of over 2 million immigrants awaiting removal proceedings in the country.
Bill HR 5283, spearheaded by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), secured passage in the House with a vote of 224-203. This legislative action reflects growing concern over the management of the influx of immigrants, particularly in New York City (NYC), where over 130,000 immigrants have sought assistance since Spring 2022.
The issue gained urgency following the Biden administration's identification of 11 federal sites in New York, including Floyd Bennett Field, a National Park Service green space, for housing immigrants. This selection came despite the fact that only 23,800 of these immigrants were part of Texas' free bus program that aimed to transport them to NYC.
Rep. Malliotakis' lawsuit against state and city officials for using federal property to house immigrants highlighted the contentious nature of this issue. The establishment of a 2,000-person tent camp at Floyd Bennett Field brought these tensions to the forefront.
However, immigrants have been opting to leave this tent camp due to its substandard conditions. Concerns have been raised about the site's susceptibility to flooding and winds, lack of indoor bathroom facilities, cold temperatures, and its distance from train stations.
NYC's financial burden in this crisis has been substantial. In 2023 alone, the city spent $1.45 billion on housing and caring for immigrants. Projections indicate that the city could potentially expend up to $12 billion over the next three years on asylum seekers, a situation that has fueled both local and national debates.
Rep. Malliotakis, in response to the House's decision, expressed her satisfaction with a statement. She highlighted the bipartisan nature of the support her bill received and urged Senator Schumer to take appropriate action.
"My bill to STOP Biden-Hochul-Adams from housing migrants in our federal parks has just passed the House with bipartisan support! Now it’s your turn Senator Schumer—do the right thing!"
Governor Kathy Hochul of New York described Floyd Bennett Field as an "emergency option" in light of the city housing over 65,000 people. The selection of this site underscores the dire situation and the lack of alternatives.
The Governor emphasized that while the Floyd Bennett Field facility meets safety standards, it is not ideal. This acknowledgment reflects the complexity of addressing the housing needs of such a large number of immigrants within existing infrastructure limitations.
"We have a facility. It’s met safety standards. It’s not ideal for anyone, but on the other hand, when you don’t have a larger shelter system, we have to go with this as an option."
As the situation evolves, the response from both state and federal levels continues to develop. The passage of this bill marks a significant step in shaping the national conversation on immigration and the use of federal lands in crisis management.