Mayor Adams: Migrants Are ‘Excellent Swimmers’ and Should Be Lifeguards

Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said that the city should hire undocumented immigrants to be lifeguards because they’re “excellent swimmers.”

Adams, who previously claimed the massive influx of asylum seekers would “destroy New York City,” made the off-color comment during a press conference on Tuesday about lifeguard staffing at NYC public pools and beaches.

“How do we have a large body of people that are in our city, our country, that are excellent swimmers and at the same time we need lifeguards—and the only obstacle is that we won’t give them the right to work to become a lifeguard?” he said.

Although the strange comment was made in reference to his ongoing push to expedite working permits to fill labor shortages with skilled immigrant workers, it’s particularly distasteful given the lengths that many migrants must go through to get to New York City.

Hundreds wade across the Rio Grande everyday, as part of their desperate bids to reach the U.S. border. An estimated 2,700 people have died while making the crossing in nearly three decades, according to Texas Monthly. That number is estimated because no U.S. agency currently tracks the deaths of migrants in the river South of the U.S. border.

Currently, there is a 60-day shelter limit for migrant families, only 30 for individuals, who must wait six months after applying for asylum before they can receive a working permit.

“If we had a plan that said, ‘If there was a shortage of food service workers and those who fit that criteria, we’re going to expedite you,’ if you have experience that you are a nurse and we have nursing shortage, we would expedite you,” he said. “We have all these eligible people waiting to work, with the skills we need to do the jobs, but we unable to allow them to work because bureaucracy is in the way.”

Meanwhile, Adams’ inflammatory comments, in conjunction with the New York Police Department’s reports of a so-called “wave of migrant crime,” have become fodder in Republicans’ push for harsher immigration restrictions, and placed the Mayor at odds with the Biden Administration, whose very support he seeks.

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