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House passes bill to shut down N.Y. migrant camp on national park land


The House voted Thursday to shut down President Biden’s use of National Park Service land in New York to house illegal immigrants in a first test vote of how communities are responding to the unprecedented surge of migrants.

Republicans’ bill would block the administration from using any federal land agencies to house migrants. It also would cancel the lease the park service granted to stash thousands of migrants at Floyd Bennett Field, a former military airfield that now hosts fishing, youth sports and a children’s petting zoo.

The GOP had hoped to harness local communities’ anger at the migrants flooding their streets and shelters in an attack on Mr. Biden’s policies, but drew just six Democrats in the 224-203 vote to pass the legislation.

“What’s next? Illegal alien ‘Bidenvilles’ on the National Mall right here in Washington, D.C.?” Rep. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican, asked.

New York City struck the deal to house migrants on the park site after complaining that its shelters and hotels are full and it’s run out of other spaces. The result, Republicans said, is a tent city built on a flood plain, with inadequate public safety protection and few amenities.

“It’s no surprise that when the first busloads of migrants started arriving at Floyd Bennett Field, they turned right back around and refused to stay there,” Rep. Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican, said. “This entire boondoggle has been a colossal waste of time and American tax dollars.”

He said the deal also may have violated federal law by sidestepping environmental impact laws.

Reo. Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat, tried to push the debate back to former President Trump, who used get-tough policies to shut down most illegal immigration. He called GOP attempts to curtail the Biden surge part of a “white nationalist” plan, and he questioned the GOP’s commitment to the very parks they said they were trying to protect with the migrant housing bill.

“If the Republicans wanted to protect our parks they would pass an appropriations bill that would not cut nearly half a billion dollars from the national park budget,” Mr. Grijalva said.

The six Democrats who backed the GOP were Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas; Donald Davis of North Carolina; Jared Golden of Maine; Mary Peltola of Alaska and Marie Perez of Washington.

The bill has little chance of seeing action in the Senate, particularly with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, controlling the floor schedule.

Thursday’s vote was the latest skirmish in what’s become a nearly all-consuming battle over the colossal pace of illegal immigration along the southern border.

Most of the attention has been on how, or even whether, to stop the newcomers. The GOP’s new bill offered a different test over how communities grapple with tough new cases.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, has said the flood of people will “destroy” his city, and Democratic governors and mayors in other jurisdictions have also complained that too many people are reaching their communities, stressing their ability to deliver services.

New York City has nearly 66,000 migrants in its care spread across 213 sites. Mr. Adams earlier this year said at the rate he’s seeing, his city will have to spend $12 billion over three years to accommodate the migrants, and will have to siphon that money from services for the city’s other residents.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, New York Democrat, complained that the GOP was trying to score political points. She responded with her own attack on Texas, which has been busing a small fraction of the migrants that reached New York.

She wrote an amendment that would have allowed the feds to still house any migrant that one state ships to another state without giving enough notice, or that bamboozles migrants into making the trip based on false information.

Texas says it gets signed consent from all migrants who board its buses.

Ms. Velazquez’s amendment was defeated on a 223-206 vote.

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