New York City officials leading the legal fight against a closed Catholic school on Staten Island being turned into a migrant shelter sounded the alarm about a potential far-reaching impact at the voting booth if Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul get their way on granting asylum seekers work authorization.
Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella issued the warning during a press conference outside the courthouse Thursday before a hearing regarding a lawsuit brought by himself and others objecting to the placement of migrants at the former St. John Villa Academy.
“Actually two years ago, the city council passed a law to allow non-citizens the right to vote. And one of the conditions was that if you had work permits, you can vote in municipal elections. So if work permits are granted to the asylum seekers, they in turn will be allowed to vote in municipal elections if the appellate division reverses the trial court,” Fossell said, referring to a city law that a judge shot down in a decision that is now being challenged.
“So in all of this discussion, I am sure their hearts are in the right place. We think to give 50,000, 75,000 people who arrived here a few weeks ago, giving them the right to vote in municipal elections, even though they’re non-citizens, we think is a bad idea and bad policy.”
The legislation passed by the New York City Council in December 2021 aimed to allow noncitizens who had been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorized to work in the U.S., including so-called “Dreamers,” to vote in municipal elections to help select the city’s mayor, city council members, borough presidents, comptroller and public advocate. However, the law, set to go into effect in January 2023, was later struck down by a state Supreme Court justice on Staten Island who said it violated the State Constitution. Justice Ralph J. Porzio ruled in June 2022 that to give noncitizens a right to vote would require a referendum.
“I think work permits that are state authorized is a very, very bad idea,” Assemblymember Michael Tannousis added Thursday. “But I want to stress one thing. They have to put pressure on President Biden to take control of the border. We are in a situation where the sink is overflowing and instead of closing the faucet, we keep spending money buying buckets. It is going to lead to nowhere good. It needs to be taken care of.”
Earlier in the press conference, Tannousis, the son of immigrants, stressed what their position on the lawsuit meant, “We are not anti-immigration, but we are anti-insanity.”
“And having the border open, allowing anyone to come in without any type of vetting process and then having laws in place in the city of New York to be able to house people, give them food and give them all sorts of other accommodations as they flood in here by the thousands to the detriment of our communities, is indeed insanity,” he said.
In addition to Adams and Hochul, the officials hurled criticism toward President Biden and his administration’s handling of the border.
“This is no longer a Republican or a Democrat issue. The majority of the people of the city of New York, if not the state, have spoken loud, and they have said this is wrong,” state Sen. Andrew J. Lanza said. “And we have elected officials at the executive level, the governor, the president who have decided for whatever reason not to listen to them. Nowhere is the majesty of the law in America more on display when it is called upon to prevent the government from trampling the voices of the people, from trampling freedom and exercising an overreach and oppression.”
“There are three people that bear the brunt of responsibility for this problem. One lives at Pennsylvania Avenue down in Washington. The other lives on Eagle Street, up in Albany, and the third lives in Gracie Mansion,” Republican minority leader of the New York City Council Joe Borelli added. “And yet it’s falling on some residents of a sleepy street on Staten Island.”
“This might be about one shelter and one neighborhood with some loud neighbors. But it really is for all of the neighbors of the 206 migrant homeless shelters that are now occupying each and every corner of this city,” he said. “Those three people have stopped working for the residents of the city and have put their priorities in the hands of those who have come across our border in violation of our law. If you don’t believe me, listen to the mayor’s own words. We are shifting resources away from public services for New Yorkers to serve this population.”