WASHINGTON – Earlier this month, the National Park Service reached an agreement with New York City to use Floyd Bennett Field to shelter thousands of migrants, but on Wednesday, congressional Republicans criticized the decision, saying the field should be protected and sanctuary cities should handle the migrant crisis on their own.
The House Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over national parks, prompting members of Congress to weigh in on the use of the field as a migrant settlement. As a part of Gateway National Recreation Area, Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn is managed by the National Park Service. Republicans used the hearing as a platform to speak against President Biden’s border policies.
“The Constitution was America’s best idea, the national parks were one of our better ideas, and the Democrat’s open border policy is clearly and unquestionably America’s worst idea,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. “The hypocrisy of calling yourself a sanctuary city where illegal immigration is welcomed and encouraged, and then protesting the result of that is the ultimate comic tragedy.”
Democrats dismissed the hearing as an excuse to avoid more pressing issues like the looming government shutdown.
“If my colleagues actually cared about the American people, they wouldn’t be pulling this stunt and would instead get to work to keep our government funded and open, our most basic responsibility in Congress,” said Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.
Kenneth Spencer, chairman of the U.S. Park Police Fraternal Order of Police, stressed that Floyd Bennett Field is not a suitable living space because it lacks adequate plumbing and floods frequently. He also emphasized that only two US Park Police officers patrol the field per shift, and officials cannot assign more.
“The impact of this staffing reality is undeniable. The surrounding public, our officers and the migrants themselves will face significant safety risks 24/7,” Spencer said.
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., pressed for recommendations on where to house migrants, Jaime Williams, a New York State assembly member, was unable to provide other proposed solutions.
“If the ideas being presented here in this committee are being disagreed with, I’d like to see some actual functional alternatives that center and preserve the dignity of both people who are coming here to fulfill an American dream and the American citizens here who want to support them,” Ocasio-Cortez said.