KINGSTON, N.Y. – Two regional congressmen stand on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to whether they support the current immigration bill that pairs tens of billions of dollars in wartime aid for Ukraine with new border laws aimed at shrinking the historic number of people who have come to the U.S. border with Mexico to seek asylum.
U.S. Reps. Marc Molinaro, R-Catskill, and Pat Ryan, D-Gardiner, weighed in Monday on their stances on the negotiated U.S. Senate $118 billion bill.
The legislation has already faced opposition from many Republicans in both chambers, and House GOP leaders said it would not even receive a vote. But bipartisan negotiators are laboring to sell the package as part of a last-ditch effort to approve money for Ukraine’s defense against Russia, emphasizing that Congress has the best chance in years to make changes to U.S. immigration law.
The bill would also send military aid to Israel, funding for allies in the Asia-Pacific and humanitarian aid for refugees fleeing Gaza.
Molinaro, who represents the 19th Congressional District, said that the bill doesn’t go far enough.
“The Senate bill includes provisions I can support like funding for law enforcement, but it faces an uncertain path forward in the Senate because it doesn’t close the border,” Molinaro said. “That’s why I’m calling for an immediate conference meeting with the House, Senate, and White House to develop a real bipartisan solution. We must secure the border and I have always been ready to work to get it done.”
Ryan, who represents the 18th Congressional District, said he is optimistic about the bill’s passage. He is strongly in favor of it.
He said the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate worked hard to get it done in a bi-partisan way.
“This is truly the right thing for our security and the right thing for allied security,” Ryan said in a telephone interview. “We have to fight to make that happen.”
“This is a historic bill,” Ryan added.
The congressman also said that some in the House Congress including Speaker Mike Johnson “are working as puppets for Trump.”
“That is a disservice to the American people,” Ryan said.
Recently, the administration of Gov. Kath Hochul, a Democrat, lambasted Molinaro and other Republican representatives of New York for their stance on immigration expressed in a letter sent to the governor on Jan. 26.
“During your time serving in the majority of the House of Representatives, the State of New York has faced an unprecedented humanitarian crisis as more than 170,000 migrants and asylum seekers have arrived in our State,” wrote Kathryn Garcia, director of State Operations and Infrastructure. “Governor Hochul has worked for nearly two years with New York City to manage this crisis, investing nearly $2 billion in State funds to date.”
“Meanwhile, you and your colleagues have taken no action to help address this national crisis, and in fact waited until this past week to even reach out to our Administration and express your concerns.”
Garcia said Hochul has spent many months searching for aid to help.
“Though Governor Hochul has spent months calling for significant federal aid, thus far you and your colleagues in the House Majority have refused to deliver,” Garcia added. “Indeed, many of your colleagues have plainly stated they will oppose any proposals that would help New York address this crisis due to their own electoral concerns: Speaker Johnson says this bipartisan deal is “dead on arrival” while Congressman Nehls of Texas went as far as to say, “I’m not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat.”
Molinaro responded to the Garcia letter in a statement of his own.
“Governor Hochul loves to fly over Upstate New York in her state-sponsored helicopter,” Molinaro said. “I’d like to cordially invite her to land in reality.”
“I voted to pass the Secure the Border Act in May,” Molinaro added. “Since then, the Governor has failed to pressure the President or Democrat-controlled Senate to act on this bill.
“She has refused to repeal New York’s Sanctuary State status,” Molinaro said. “She has allowed New York City to bus migrants upstate and house migrants in schools. And now, her new budget proposes cuts to school funding in Upstate New York and adds $2.4 billion in funds for migrants living downstate”.
Molinaro said that “I’m not going to be lectured to by Governor Hochul on a crisis that she’s caused. But, in the spirit of actually wanting to solve the problem, I’ll ignore the Governor’s hyperbole and invite her to an immediate meeting with myself and New York’s Republican Congressional Delegation. Let’s go!”
Meanwhile, Hochul said in a statement issued Monday that Congress should pass the current bill.
“Republicans and Democrats have come together with the most significant immigration reform in decades,” Hochul said. “President Biden has said that on day one, if this is passed by the House and the Senate, he will sign it…This should be happening. The only thing standing in the way is that the House Republicans refuse to take action.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.