“Public Safety Crisis”: New York First Responders, Official Testify to Strain on Emergency Management Resources Caused by Border Crisis
December 6, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Management and Technology, led by Chairman Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), held a hearing to examine the burdens placed on emergency management entities and first responders as a consequence of the historic border crisis. Witness testimony was provided by Bruce Blakeman, county executive for Nassau County, New York; Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York; David Favro, sheriff of Clinton County, New York on behalf of the National Sheriffs’ Association; and Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Witnesses detailed the immense strain placed on emergency management resources, entities, and personnel, and the public safety threats posed by the unprecedented amount of inadmissible aliens who have crossed our borders and traveled to cities across America, such as New York City. Witnesses detailed the emotional toll on first responders who are facing staffing challenges and budget cuts thanks to the overwhelming influx, and the financial cost on local law enforcement from booking and arresting criminal aliens. Members received confirmation that the current public safety crisis due to our open borders has made it extremely difficult for first responders to carry out their sworn duties.
In his opening line of questioning, Chairman D’Esposito asked Ansbro about the budget consequences for fire departments:
“New York City Mayor Eric Adams estimates that the mounting New York migrant crisis will cost taxpayers at a minimum $12 billion. As such, he has recently announced sweeping budget cuts across the city, and I know you mentioned some of them in your opening statement, but can you please go into a little bit further detail how these budget cuts will affect the FDNY and its ability to serve the people of the city of New York and all who visit?”
“We would have mandatory staffing cuts to engine companies, that’s one issue.
“Another issue is they are reducing training for our members. We are supposed to have, I believe, 100 hours of training per year. They have to cut the amount of training we’re going to do. They’re taking off line positions and moving them, putting all the off line positions back in the field. These are training positions, research positions, new tactical positions.
“Traditionally, we always have members that are injured due to the nature of our work. There are approximately eight million firefighters, with a thousand currently on light duty. Some have 9/11-related illnesses. They’ve taken the position that they’re going to alter the reasonable accommodation policy to limit the number of jobs and start forcing members out that are injured that they can’t find a job. … So there’s going to be a brain drain in the fire department. They are basically going to balance the budget on the backs of injured firefighters.”
Chairman D’Esposito continued:
“So, contrary to the comments of many of those that are imposing these budget cuts, it is very clear that they will have devastating effects on the operations of one of the greatest fire departments in the world?”
“Absolutely. They’ve already cut staffing at 10 percent of engine companies, and I made it clear that we don’t have the money to increase our capabilities and counterterrorism activities and training.”
Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY) questioned Blakeman on the effects of the unprecedented border crisis on crime in Nassau County:
“I’d like you to go into a little more detail about how the migrant crisis has affected crime in Nassau County and the subsequent effect that it has had on police departments and first responders.”
“We have seen an increase in crime, basically because you have these organized gangs that are part of the drug cartels from Mexico and other countries who have come to the metropolitan area. They’re residing primarily in New York City and they do cross-border crime…I think common sense people realize that the problem is that we don’t know who’s coming in. We can’t control the numbers. And they are committing crimes. They are also creating burdens on our young people that are devastating. In the United States, over 65,000 young people have overdosed on fentanyl. Where is it coming from? It’s coming from south of the border and many of it is coming from Chinese nationals. I read today that there were 24,000 Chinese nationals that were detained at the border. Those are the ones that were detained. How many got through? We need to secure our borders to make sure that we know who is in this country. We are not anti-immigration, we’re for common sense immigration… This is taking away resources that we desperately need to take care of our own citizens.”
On the topic of financial costs to law enforcement, Rep. Dale Strong (R-AL) asked Favro:
“Have you ever seen conditions like this in your time? As a result of this invasion at our southern border, how’s that affecting your jail costs, medical costs, your corrections officer costs, and burnout?”
“Starting with the jail, we’re seeing a significant increase. After bail reform in New York State, our jail population went down significantly. We were averaging about 100-105 detainees on a given day. That went up to about 160-170 [detainees] two years ago, because we have a contract with the United States Border Patrol. I believe we’re the only county jail left in the state of New York that will house Border Patrol detainees…The cost is approximately $112 a night, which results in over $2 million dollars a year that is paid out for the detention at our facility. There are multiple barriers there, because now in New York you’re well aware we have the MAT program, the [Medication Assisted] Treatment for detainees and that’s trying to be pushed over to our federal inmates as well.That becomes a little bit of a problem because you don’t know the medical history, you don’t know the background and it can create more of a hazard and liability for the jail… We’re firm believers that we are not jurors. We’re not judges. We’re there to create a safe, secure, and humane detention for these people until they are dealt with at a further part of the process.”
Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK) asked witnesses about the effect of the alien influx on community emergency preparedness:
“Are we better prepared if a security threat comes to New York City because of the decisions, or less prepared?”
“We are less prepared because we don’t know who is coming into this country. And they haven’t been vetted, there’s a lot of people in this country that have nefarious intent…With open borders, it creates a terrible public safety crisis.”
Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Chairman Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) also asked Blakeman about the crime in Nassau County:
“Can you talk a little bit more about the increase in crime that you’ve seen in Nassau County, and focus on the police force and what you know, what they’re seeing, and what they’re dealing with?”
“Like most large police departments, we have a detective bureau that has what’s known as a Pattern Burglary Squad. Some of the patterns that we’ve found on the burglaries of residential and commercial properties have been done by migrants who came here through the current migrant policy. They’ve come here owing the cartels a great deal of money to transport them over the border, and if they don’t pay that money, I’ve been told that their families would be seriously harmed if not killed in their native country. Therefore they need quick money and they need to get it fast. So they’re engaging in all kinds of crimes, burglary, shoplifting.
“And it has become a burden on our police department. And I just want to supplement, what happens in New York City has an effect also in Nassau County. We send hundreds of thousands of people into New York City each day from Nassau County. So if there’s a diminution in the ranks of the firefighters or the police officers, it presents a safety problem for Nassau county residents. Many of the firefighters and cops live in Nassau County, so it’s a problem for us as well as New York City.”