NYC mayor faces bipartisan blowback over new round of migrant debit cards: 'The gravy train’ must stop

New York City leaders from both parties slammed a move by Mayor Eric Adams’ administration to distribute another tranche of thousands of prepaid debit cards to migrant families.

While Adams’ office claimed at its February inception the program would save the city as much as $7.2 million per year, some city lawmakers decried the latest allocation of 7,300 cards as a signal for more border-crossers to come.

Councilman Robert Holden, a Democrat from Glendale, Queens, said the “gravy train for migrants has to stop.”

“Giving out free housing, food, and legal aid while protecting them from federal authorities is unsustainable and only makes the crisis worse. This madness needs to end now.”

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Holden’s borough hosts 70 migrant shelters, the most in the city, according to a New York Post analysis released Sunday.

Of the city’s zip codes, 10036 in Midtown Manhattan – which includes Fox News’ headquarters – has eight shelters alone within its dense two-fifths of a square mile.

A representative for Democratic Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents that neighborhood, declined comment.

The top Republican on council, Joe Borelli of Staten Island, said sanctuary city proponents may finally be realizing the consequences of their actions.

“I think Democrats are finding out the hard way that American cities just can’t be the world’s refugee camp,” Borelli said.

“We’re approaching Year Three of the migrant crisis in New York and the argument for these cards seems to be that it’s the ‘least worst’ way of doing things,” added the minority leader, whose party faces a 45-6 Democratic council majority.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams could not be reached for comment.

However, Democratic Councilwoman Julie Won of Long Island City, Queens, lauded the program, saying prepaid cards give migrants “sovereignty and freedom to choose whatever they want to eat” and lets them avoid “rotten” food provided by city contractors.

She said all the estimated 60,000 migrants under the city’s auspices should receive such assistance, pointing to the 23 shelters tallied in Long Island City alone.

Won said New York City spent $463 million on food procurement last year, and noted she publicly exposed how meals had often gone to waste. She said the debit card program provides better services at less than 1% of the cost of dealing with the food contractors.

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Won previously hosted “welcome dinners” for small groups of migrants in her district to help them integrate into the community and get access to essential services, according to Queens news outlet QNS. 

Several other council Democrats, as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who lives in Brooklyn, did not respond to comment requests.

However, Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom defended the administration’s decision, while calling on the federal government to “finish the job they started” and process more asylum applications to allow migrants to work.

“As we continue to do our part to respond to this global humanitarian crisis, we are finding new ways to help us save taxpayer dollars, invest in our local economy, and support our newest New Yorkers in ways that work for families with children,” Williams-Isom said.

“They can buy from local shops, support small businesses, and manage their own resources. When we empower people, we help them achieve self-sufficiency and access the American Dream.”

In addition, one resident of the nation’s largest housing project questioned why shelters are being constructed in underserved areas.

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“Why are y’all sending them here? Send them to Fifth Avenue [or] Park Avenue…” Shawarn Shields of Queensbridge Houses told the New York Post on Sunday.

In response to criticisms of the program, a city spokesperson said the debit card program only covers a small fraction of migrants.

The spokesperson also pointed to a right-to-shelter policy requiring New York City to find and provide housing to those who are homeless. They also noted migrants are still not allowed to receive federal SNAP food stamp benefits for their daily sustenance.

The spokesperson also cited a recent calculation depicting a modest per-migrant meal per-diem of $4. That amount does not go far in New York City, their analysis suggested.

Meanwhile, a representative for MoCaFi, the New Jersey-based contractor the city brought in to administer the cards, directed Fox News Digital to recent reporting on the program when asked for response to criticism.

The representative added that MoCaFi’s day-to-day focus is serving 50 million unbanked and “under-banked” Americans.

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