‘There is no more room in New York’: Mayor Adams Takes Mexico

‘There is no more room in New York’: Mayor Adams Takes Mexico

By Joe Anuta | October 5, 2023

The New York City mayor is on a four-day whirlwind trip through Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia, including the dangerous Darién Gap.

MEXICO CITY — Joe Biden’s loudest Democratic critic on immigration is taking his message south of the border.

After repeatedly blasting President Joe Biden over his handling of the migrant crisis that’s overwhelming American cities, New York Mayor Eric Adams set off on a four-day blitz late Wednesday through a trio of Latin American nations.

The Democrat’s message: The no-vacancy sign is burning bright in New York City.

“My trip here is to speak directly to the people of all the countries that are migrating: There is no more room in New York,” Adams said Thursday to a tangle of local and international reporters packed into a state congress building in Puebla, Mexico.

“Our hearts are endless, but our resources are not.”

New York is struggling to manage an influx of more than 110,000 migrants who have arrived since spring 2022, a surge that has overwhelmed shelters, swallowed up resources and contributed to proposed cuts in the municipal budget. More than 60,000 are still in the city’s care.

The situation has consumed nearly all of Adams’ energy and created a political crisis for the mayor — his once-close relationship with Biden has been sullied; the two haven’t spoken in months.

Taking international relations into his own hands, Adams set off on a whirlwind trip — with NYPD officers, top aides and reporters in tow — that will take him through Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia, including the dangerous Darién Gap, over the next several days.

The tour was shaping up to be a frenetic combination of fact-finding mission, public-service campaign and self-aggrandizement of his mayoral brand that included receiving an honorary degree in Puebla.

Adams — who in the past has brushed off criticism of his penchant for mixing religion with governance — touched down in Mexico City on Wednesday evening and headed to a holy site for Catholic pilgrims called the Basilica de Guadalupe, where he got an after-hours tour and spoke in sweeping terms about the scope of the solutions needed to stem the flow of migrants.

“There are enough resources around the globe to address this issue,” Adams said outside the deserted chapel grounds. “I’m going to do the best I can to send a message to all of the countries dealing with this that we have an obligation.”

Immigrant experts and Washington officials were skeptical that a junket by a U.S. mayor — paid partly with government funds for his security detail, personal money by his aides and by a nonprofit for his travel — would do much to advance those goals.

For one, the problems that have led to the increase in asylum-seekers are complex and have been building for years.

“A single trip by a politician will not dampen the flow,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration attorney and professor at Cornell Law School. “Mayor Adams would do better to work cooperating with the Biden administration on this complex issue, rather than striking out on his own foreign policy pursuits.”

Indeed, many of the goals of Adams’ trip — to liaison with Latin American leaders and deliver a message to migrants — are already done on a far larger scale by the federal government.

The Department of Homeland Security, according to a spokesperson, said the agency has been sending out messages to potential asylum-seekers in their own countries to combat misinformation promulgated by smugglers who present themselves as the best option to reach the southern border.

“The mayor’s biggest power isn’t in Mexico: He has no federal or international relevance,” said one Washington official who works on the migrant issue and was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the mayor’s sojourn. “His gravitational force is strongest in Washington, and if he wants to make a point about Mexico, he should be doing it there.”

On Thursday, meanwhile, the Biden administration announced the United States will again start deporting migrants to Venezuela to try to slow the flow from the troubled South American country — from where a large segment have come to New York. And a day earlier, the administration said it would resume construction in Texas of the Trump administration’s proposed border wall.

Still, Adams’ trip also drew criticism back home from Democrats and Republicans as a political stunt.

City Council Member Alexa Avilés, a Democrat, called Adams’ tour “devoid of any socio-economical context of why migrants are leaving their countries.”

“Our city needs a lot right now, and we need somebody who’s going to be focusing on finding solutions to the things we need now,” she continued. “We don’t need a tourist person to go to the Darién water gap who thinks he’s going to convince individuals not to come to New York City. It’s absurd.”

Adams, who also sat down with business leaders and met with a social service organization assisting migrants, is being accompanied on his trip in Mexico by Jorge Islas López, the consul general of Mexico in New York City.

The mayor, pushing back against naysayers, touted his foreign relations bona fides by citing several meetings with dignitaries during the recent United Nations General Assembly.

“We know we are considered an international city and the playbook for resolving this issue is one on a local level, a state level, a national level and an international level,” Adams said in the ornate chambers of the Puebla state congress building.

The stop to meet with lawmakers was one of three Thursday where Adams was honored by Mexican dignitaries — creating a sharp rhetorical detour from the stated purpose of the trip.

In addition to the commendation bestowed upon him by Pueblan lawmakers, Adams was also granted an honorary degree from the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, where he spoke from a wooden parapet to a crowd seated beneath arched porticos and hanging chandeliers about the need to turn academic theories into real-world solutions.

Adams then raced over, escorted by a multimodal police detail, to a separate ceremony where he was given further awards by the Pueblo state governor and feted over dinner.

Thursday evening, Adams was slated to fly to Quito, Ecuador, where he plans to meet with government officials and chat with migrants. A stop Saturday includes a visit to the treacherous Darién Gap, which many asylum seekers pass through on their harrowing journey to the United States.

And while the mayor hopes to convince some of the migrants he reaches in person or via local media to reconsider their trip to New York City, asylum-seekers already on the ground in the five boroughs did not give him good odds.

Eric Vega, 13, said he arrived from Ecuador with his two siblings and parents a month ago and disagreed that Adams’ description of New York being full would have dissuaded him from making the trek.

“New York is really nice,” Vega said in an interview Wednesday outside of an emergency shelter for migrants in Queens. “They give you food. They give you clothes here in New York. They give you what you need. There’s good people here.”

Emily Ngo and Jason Beeferman contributed to this report.

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