Transcript: Mayor Adams Appears Live on MSNBC’S “The Sunday Show With Jonathan Capehart”

May 21, 2023

Jonathan Capehart: The migrant crisis at the southern border is having a profound impact on cities thousands of miles away. In New York City officials report that in the past year, the city has welcomed more than 60,000 asylum seeking migrants, more than 4,200 arrived just in the past week. Thousands of them have been bused in from Republican border states as part of a cruel political stunt. The influx of migrants has led to an overwhelmed shelter system and strained financial resources. Now, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and three other mayors have sent a letter requesting a meeting with President Biden to discuss how to quote, “ensure our nation humanely accommodates all asylum seekers”. Joining me now is his honor, New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Mayor Adams, welcome back to the Sunday Show.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you, and good morning to you.

Capehart: Good morning. So Mr. Mayor, talk to me about this letter you’ve signed with other mayors to send to President Biden. What led the four of you to this decision?

Mayor Adams: A real concern on the impacts that we are seeing in our cities. No city should have to burden a national problem on its own, and clearly when you speak with the other mayors and my colleagues across the country that are dealing with this, clearly it’s time for us to sit down and speak with the president so that we can show firsthand how the impact of this crisis is undermining how we carry out our function in our cities. We received over 70,000 actually migrant asylum seekers, 42,000 are still in our care and we are seeing around several hundreds a day. Last week, for several days we received over 900. This is just not sustainable for our city.

Capehart: You’ve been loudly criticizing the president over this, according to the New York Times, the lead story in the New York Times is about how there are some Democrats concerned this – your criticism of the president will undermine him. What do you say to that?

Mayor Adams: Well, let’s be clear. When I talked about public safety and the over proliferation of guns in our country last year, many people were not listening to the concern of voters. And I’m saying that again, I will do everything possible to get the president reelected. I’ve made that clear. My concern is not politics, it’s people. The people who are coming to this country should receive the proper care that they deserve and the people who are in this country should not be overburdened with the cost that is associated with this. And the people who are workers, many of my civil servants have been spending a long hours, they’ve been on the frontline since COVID, and they continue to deal with this issue. So this is not politics for me. This is about people, the people I protected as a police officer and now I’m serving as the mayor.

Capehart: You recently announced that nearly 50 percent of the hotel rooms in New York City are filled with asylum seekers. The system is overwhelmed. And you haven’t been shy about seeking help from the Biden administration. How do you see the administration helping with this? Is the administration reimbursing the hotels for housing these migrants?

Mayor Adams: When we look at the numbers, those are hotels between 80 and 200 people, close to 40 percent. The numbers are really alarming when you look at it, but the problem here is on several levels. Number one, we have to be honest, the Republican party, they have blocked real comprehensive immigration reform. This is not sustainable. This needs to be addressed. But in the short time, we need to allow those who come to the country to be able to work. If we could allow them to work, it would take the pressure and responsibility off of the local cities.

We spent over a billion dollars and we’re looking to spend over $4 billion in the upcoming year. This is not sustainable for us, and we believe this is not right for the people of this city. FEMA allocated out of the $350 million, only $30 million went to New York City. So we received the large sum of migrants in our city, but we’re not getting the funding to match. The plan on our bordering states is simply to use the money from FEMA to bus migrants to New York City. That is just not a workable solution.

Capehart: Mr. Mayor, let me get you on something that’s gotten a lot of attention and that’s been stories about how homeless veterans are being displaced by migrants. Is that true or is that false?

Mayor Adams: It is really troubling, and I’m asking our local and state authorities to investigate what happened here. It was clearly fabricated and it was a conscious decision to fabricate it from what we are getting. A thorough investigation would determine if any criminality is involved, but there was never a moment where veterans were displaced. We would never do that. And those who put together this scheme and put together this plan to really put a negative light on what we coordinated to do to send migrants throughout the entire state, a real decompression strategy. And I think that decompression strategy should be throughout the entire country at all. But we never displaced veterans. Someone fabricated that story and it was blasted across our local tabloids and papers and it’s really unfortunate that someone would do something like this.

Capehart: And Mr. Mayor, there also has been reporting that you’ve been looking at using school gyms for housing, which has pushed parents and community members to the streets and protests. Have things truly gotten that bad, that extreme?

Mayor Adams: Yes, they have. And I can understand the concern of parents and communities. We clearly don’t want to do that. We were not using all school gyms. We were identifying 20 standalone gyms that are not attached to school builders to use as respite centers. Not long-term care, but this is what we are faced with. We are out of room. 70,000 migrant asylum seekers traveled to the city. Over 42,000 are still in our care. We’ve used up over 150 hotels, including nine HERCCs, humanitarian relief centers. This is a real crisis and it’s unfortunate that some are attempting to depict it as not a crisis and the numbers are not there. The numbers are there, and this is not sustainable for the people of this city and those other mayors who have signed on to the correspondence to the White House,

Capehart: Mr. Mayor, we’re going to go overtime because I have to ask you about one more thing. Earlier this month, Jordan Neely, as you know, a homeless New Yorker, was killed on the subway after shouting at the passengers, excuse me, that he was hungry and thirsty. Neely was put in a fatal choke hold by subway passenger Daniel Penny. The GOP is coalescing around Penny raising money for his defense of labeling him a hero of sorts. What is it about Penny that makes Republicans feel he is deserving of grace and a second chance, but Neely wasn’t?

Mayor Adams: I don’t know that. I think the case is now in the hands of the district attorney. I have a lot of confidence in DA Bragg. I am clear on this, I can’t control the outcome of the case, but I can control how we continue to address a very real issue. I was on this show several months ago when we talked about involuntary removal to the hospitals of those who are unable to take care of their basic needs and they are in danger to themselves. We need state help to codify what the courts have already ruled. That is the real issue. There are more Jordan Neelys out there and when I’m in the subway system speaking with them, trying to get them into care, we know that we have to have help on the state level to codify this law. And my heart goes out to the family of Jordan Neely and my heart goes out to so many others who are seeking care for their loved ones who are dealing with serious mental health illnesses.

Capehart: And that funeral for Mr. Neely was on Friday. Mayor Eric Adams of the great city of New York. Thank you as always for coming to the Sunday Show.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Have a good day

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