WASHINGTON — President Biden did not attend a White House meeting Thursday with major city mayors seeking $5 billion in funding for local services for migrants released at the U.S.-Mexico border.
White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and senior adviser Tom Peres instead met with Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, both Democrats.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams was also scheduled to attend the 9 a.m. meeting and posted a video of himself aboard a flight to D.C. — before abruptly canceling and returning to New York when the FBI raided the Brooklyn home. campaign fundraiser Briana Suggs.
It was not clear whether a representative of Adams or a member of his staff attended the meeting, which followed a rebuke from the leaders of five of America’s largest cities.
The 80-year-old president received an intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. at the White House, according to his public schedule, which does not reflect other morning duties.
Adams, Johnson, Johnston, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote to Biden on Oct. 28 to request a meeting.
“In order to deal with this crisis without further delay, we request an urgent meeting with you to discuss directly the ways in which we can work with your administration to avoid large numbers of additional asylum seekers being brought in in our cities with little or no coordination, support or resources,” the mayors wrote.
“We’re asking for $5 billion to cover the costs our cities have already incurred and continue to serve the growing number of people coming to our communities.”
White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday that “I can’t talk about the $5 billion” requested by the mayors, but said the Biden administration is seeking additional funding approved by Congress.
It’s unclear why Biden chose not to meet with the mayors, blaming him for handling immigration. However, he also backed out of an Aug. 30 meeting at the White House with New York Gov. Cathy Hochul after she also criticized the federal response.
The White House requested on October 20 that Congress provide $1.4 billion to state and local governments for “shelter and services for migrants released from DHS custody.”
But the mayors argued that even more was needed to deal with the record number of migrants crossing the border illegally before awaiting asylum decisions in the US. Asylum seekers can get work permits after 180 days, but local authorities have asked for even faster approval.
“Denver is currently spending almost $2 million per week on shelter, New York has exceeded $1.7 billion in spending, and Chicago has spent over $320 million,” Biden’s group wrote. “Our cities need additional resources far beyond the amount proposed to properly care for asylum seekers entering our communities.”