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Santos decries against migrant housing complex near Nassau County border

Rep. George Santos departs the U.S. Capitol after a vote on May 11, 2023.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
Rep. George Santos departs the U.S. Capitol after a vote on May 11, 2023.

U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) made a rare stop in his district to call for removal of the migrant housing complex on the Queens-Nassau County border.

Last week, New York City began relocating 1,000 single-adult men who are seeking asylum to the emergency tent shelter outside Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.

With his back to the complex, Santos said he is concerned about its impact on the suburban neighborhood, pointing at an elementary school on the other side of the busy Cross Island Parkway.

“My message is stop coming. There is no magic money tree here. There is no magic house here,” Santos said. You're not going to walk in and have your life change. You're gonna go through hard times.”

“And if you have small kids, you're gonna put yourself and your kids in harm's way,” he added.

The city, state and federal government are setting up more facilities in the five boroughs for single-adult men to make room in shelters and hotels for families seeking asylum. The latest is the federal government allowing the state to use Floyd Bennett Field, a former U.S. Navy air station in Brooklyn, to house up to 2,000 asylum seekers.

Santos, who visited the tent structures used at the border in El Paso, Texas, said the conditions in these emergency housing facilities are “inhumane.” Cots are lined in large open rooms, head to foot.

“Immigration has become a humanitarian crisis in this country,” he said. “This isn't about not wanting to help folks. This is about acknowledging that this is a crisis, a crisis led on by bad policy.”

Santos is calling for the federal government to curb immigration at the southern border, and for Mayor Eric Adams to suspend New York City’s sanctuary status.

He acknowledges working with the city or the Biden administration would be a challenge; “My options here are very limited. They're all Democrats,” Santos said. “The reality is I'm willing to work with anybody. I don't care about party affiliation. I don't care about ‘which means to the way’ — We just need to fix this.”

However, Santos did not touch on the federal charges against him — wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. The Nassau County Republicans disavowed him in January after his inauguration, calling for his resignation.

At the very least, Santos believes his federal counterparts could get behind measures that would increase the number of judges and personnel working on asylum cases to speed up the process.

“We need court dates,” Santos said. “We need more judges in the immigration courts to be able to address this issue. because it's out of control.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday that New York is spending $20 million to speed up the casework filing process for more than 30,000 asylum seekers in New York City. The goal is for asylum seekers to get legal work status, exit the shelter system and begin independent living.

Still, Santos blamed efforts to get the Biden administration to expedite work authorizations for thousands of asylum seekers.

“The problem is you're going to create competition with American citizens who are already struggling to put food on the table when trying to find jobs,” Santos said. “So you want to add millions of people to the workforce and take away from Americans.”

“This isn't about being anti-immigration. It's about having common sense of the capacity to the state of our country of where we are today. It's unsustainable,” he added.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.