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Adams pitches migrants as solution to New York City’s lifeguard shortage

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(The Center Square) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is suggesting that migrants could help fill a pressing shortage of lifeguards in the city because they are “excellent swimmers.”

Speaking to reporters at a Tuesday briefing on staffing at the city’s beaches and pools ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Adams went off on a tangent by saying that expediting federal work permits for migrants and asylum-seekers could help the city find workers for high-demand jobs, including lifeguards.

“So we have all these eligible people waiting to work with the skills we need to fill the jobs, but we’re unable to allow them to work because bureaucracy is in the way,” the mayor said. “That just does not make sense.”

He said migrants could fill other in-demand professions, including food service work and nursing if the Biden administration acts on tens of thousands of applications for work authorization.

Adams has been touting immigrants as a potential solution to the city’s labor shortages for months, saying expedited work permits would alleviate the financial pressure on New York City, which is providing temporary housing, food and other necessities for tens of thousands of new arrivals.

“Mayor Adams has been clear that there is nothing more un-American than not allowing someone to work,” an Adams spokesperson said in a statement following Tuesday’s briefing. “Anyone who is trying to make more out of the mayor continuing to make that point today is missing the forest for the trees.”

In January, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed off on a temporary plan to make it easier for asylum seekers to find jobs in the state government when they get work authorization from the federal government.

The New York Civil Service Commission approved changes, including eliminating application requirements such as proof of a high school diploma and English proficiency.

The push for work authorization comes as New York grapples with a surge of tens of thousands of migrants following an unprecedented spike in immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing numbers of illegal crossings.

New York City has had an influx of more than 197,000 asylum seekers in the past year and is caring for more than 60,000 migrants at shelters across five boroughs. The crisis has cost taxpayers more than $1.45 billion over the past year and is expected to run as high as $10 billion in coming years, according to Adams. More than 50,000 migrants in New York City have applied for work permits, according to city officials.

Hochul and Adams are among a group of Democrats calling on the Biden administration to expedite work authorization for migrants, provide more federal funding and take steps to secure the southern border.

Republicans have criticized New York City’s “sanctuary” status, as well as the city’s transportation and housing programs, which they claim are encouraging “illegal immigrants” to flood the city.