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Biden’s Migrant Policy Came After Heavy Pressure From New York Politicians and Donors

NEW YORK — The Biden administration’s announcement Wednesday granting temporary protected status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who crossed the border without legal documentation came after heavy lobbying from New York’s top Democratic officials, particularly New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

But President Joe Biden and his staff also faced mounting pressure behind the scenes from some donors and supporters, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Biden appearaed at several fundraisers this week while attending the United Nations General Assembly meeting, and the issue came up at those events, sources told NBC News. 

US President Joe Biden speaks during the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 46th Annual Gala at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, on September 21, 2023.
President Joe Biden during the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 46th Annual Gala in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.Saul Loeb / AFP – Getty Images

Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City, the pre-eminent advocacy group for the New York City business community, was involved in negotiations between the White House and the city’s government and business leaders. She said the fact that the president received an earful from donors about the humanitarian crisis in the city made an impact. 

“Hearing from donors at his fundraisers about how much damage was being inflicted on the city and state budgets as a result of the failure of the federal government to act, the humanitarian issues associated with people being in a federal process for years without being able to work and support themselves, I think that had to be pretty compelling,” Wylde said. 

“Absolutely. It worked,” a Democratic source involved in fundraising for the president at an event this week said. 

“We made enough noise and have enough money to have a big influence,” the source said, adding that a number of donors and CEOs engaged in calls with Biden campaign staffers and wrote letters to the White House in recent weeks about the issue — specifically asking him to extend temporary protected status. 

“So now those people are more committed to him,” the person added.

The Biden campaign declined to comment for this story, but when asked if New York donors and fundraisers had an impact on the decision to expand temporary protected status for Venezuelans, a Biden administration official replied, “No, that is not how the administration makes decisions.” 

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the decision on migrants was “based on extraordinary and temporary conditions in Venezuela that prevent their nationals from returning in safety.” 

“This Administration has called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform since day one,” the spokesperson added in an emailed response. “As a result of Congress’ failure to enact the reform, the DHS has been using the limited tools it has available to secure the border and build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system while leading the largest expansion of lawful pathways for immigration in decades.”

Temporary protected status gives the affected individuals a faster path to work authorization and the ability to live in the country without fear of deportation. New Yorkers have been frustrated with the lack of federal government assistance for dealing with 60,000 migrants living in the city’s shelter system. 

Two sources involved in fundraisers during Biden’s visit said the reluctance was pervasive enough that the Biden campaign distributed a list of talking points on the administration’s migrant policies to event organizers to use in conversations with donors. A third person not involved in the fundraisers also shared the talking points. 

The document included notes that Biden inherited a broken immigration system, and that the administration is “working collaboratively with partners in NY to solve the crisis,” according to a copy obtained by NBC News. 

One of the sources said they were not aware of the campaign distributing them on any other issues, but another organizer said they had also seen a second set of campaign talking points on the president’s infrastructure bill and child care policies. 

The three sources also described phone conversations between donors in recent weeks during which they discussed withholding their contributions as a strategy to get the Biden administration to use the powers it has to put migrants to work more quickly. 

Last week, one of the individuals, who was involved in hosting a “Lawyers for Biden” event in the city Wednesday, said that organizers were struggling to sell tickets and that some donors had curtailed or backed off on previous commitments to the campaign. 

It’s not yet clear what the final numbers were from the event, but a Biden campaign official pushed back at the time and said the event was exceeding expectations for the number of expected attendees.

“The campaign has been told by the people who are major donors in the New York area that this is a problem for fundraising efforts,” the Democrat organizer said. “The immigration problem in New York City is impacting the ability to raise money in this quarter.”

A Siena College poll released in late August found that 82% of New Yorkers said the recent influx in migrants is a “serious problem.” 

The Biden campaign maintained that it has seen no dip in enthusiasm from New York area donors. Campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz cited “four fundraisers on top of a very busy official schedule in New York City, including a sold out, 1,500-seat Broadway event on a Monday night.”

“Objectively, that schedule speaks to high donor interest and a strong fundraising schedule,” he said.

The federal government has allocated more than $140 million in aid to New York City and has announced plans to send another $100 million to help New York City public schools absorb migrant children. But Adams has said the city could be facing $12 billion in costs as a result of the crisis.

He praised the Biden administration’s decision Wednesday as an “important step” but hopes to see it “extend Temporary Protected Status to the tens of thousands of other migrants in our care from other countries.” 

Source : NBCNews