Democratic former President Bill Clinton acknowledged Sunday that New York City’s progressive “Right to Shelter law” needs to be amended given the migrant crisis.
“Gov. [Kathy] Hochul thinks it should be modified, and it probably should under the circumstances,” Clinton told host John Catsimatidis on 77 WABC radio’s “The Cats Roundtable” show — adding that Democrats are taking a major hit over the crisis.
Big Apple Mayor Mayor Eric Adams and Hochul have argued that the Right to Shelter law was designed to address the local homeless problem — not the unrelenting massive waves of migrants flooding the city for months after crossing the southern border with Mexico.
The issue is currently in litigation, with advocates for the homeless and asylum seekers opposing any significant rollback of the law.
Clinton said the problem is migrants have to wait months to get work permits, so the shelter rule needs to be relaxed to relieve the pressure on the city when it comes to housing all of them during their wait.
“It’s broken. We need to fix it… It doesn’t make any sense,” Clinton said of the system.
“They come here, and we’re supposed to shelter people who can’t get work permits for six months. We need to change that,” he said.
“They ought to work. They need to begin working, paying taxes and paying their way. Most of these people have no interest in being on welfare,” Clinton said.
Clinton said Adams has welcomed his counsel on issues, as did previous city Mayor Mike Bloomberg — but not Bill de Blasio.
“In the beginning I tried to help Mayor de Blasio. But he decided that he was .. more progressive than he thought I was — whatever that means,” Clinton said.
The former commander in chief acknowledged President Biden’s effort to make it easier for at least Venezuelan asylum seekers to get work permits by allowing them to apply for temporary protected status.
“He’s trying to do that. Probably somebody will sue him and say, ‘You can’t do that for one group and not another,’” Clinton said.
The ex-president said that either way, Biden and the Democrats are taking a political hit for the chaos at the border and an immigration system that is clearly incapable of solving the crisis.
“The [US immigration] system is built to handle about 400,000 … We should build more housing just over the Rio Grande, and Mexico, I think, would support that,” he said. “Keep people there, and let them in as quickly as possible if they are going some place where we know they can get a job and they’ll be welcome.”
The former president said proper immigration and vetting can’t be done “with a system that is not well manned and there are not enough facilities along the border.
“Chaos has been very beneficial for the Republicans,” he said.
In general, Clinton said he backs a liberal immigration policy akin to Canada and argued that Venezuelans can prove they are aggrieved by a hostile government and meet the criteria established for US asylum.
“We have always had a blanket offer of entry into America for people who have a reasonable fear for the lives and safety of their families and themselves. A lot of the Venezuelans can easily make that case. … Because there’s no question that the whole country has been consumed by the collapse of effective security and government in the [Venezuelan] Nicolás Maduro administration,” Clinton said.
“But they come in here, and under the current law, they have to wait six months for a work permit,” he said.
Clinton emphasized that immigration is good for America, especially given the country’s declining birth rate. He said parts of America — particularly citing regions of upstate New York — suffer from a labor shortage that can be filled by migrants.
“We have a negative birth rate in America … If that happens, the only way to keep your economy growing is either with immigrants or machines,” he said.
Considered a moderate in the Democratic Party, Clinton took some shots at lefty progressives — saying their positions on bail reform and crime in New York cost Democrats the House majority.
He said Democrats made inroads and Republicans were punished in parts of the country during the 2022 mid-term elections after the conservative US Supreme Court outlawed the national right to an abortion, overturning the 50-year Roe v. Wade decision.
“But the Democrats lost enough seats in New York because of reaction to the crime problem here and the sense that — we didn’t have — we my party — didn’t have a good common-sense approach to it,” he said.
“The swing vote is for common sense and solving problems.”