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House Republicans blast New York City migrant debit card program

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(The Center Square) — Congressional Republicans are tearing into New York City Mayor Eric Adams over his $53 million migrant debit card “handouts” and demanding to know if federal funds were used for the taxpayer-funded program.

In a letter to Adams, U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, leads a group of GOP lawmakers blasting the program as “a free handout to foreign nationals who illegally circumvented our immigration processes.”

“Not only does this plan fail to address the underlying source of New York’s surging immigrant population, but it further incentivizes the arrival of illegal aliens who will feel justified in receiving these taxpayer-funded benefits,” the lawmaker wrote.

The GOP lawmakers, which included Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Barry Moore, R., Ala., and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., questioned whether federal funds are being used for the debit card program, how city officials are determining eligibility to receive the money, and whether they are tracking how and where it is being spent.

“While the program claims the prepaid cards may only be used at bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores, it does not specify these locations,” they wrote. “Distributing untraceable cash on transferable debit cards will only result in an increase of immigrants residing in NYC, which you once said would be ‘destroyed’ by the migrant crisis.”

They pointed out that the $350 made available to migrants each week as part of the debit card program exceeds the average $291 per month given to low-income, elderly and disabled U.S. citizens through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

“To reiterate, migrants eligible for prepaid cards will receive more than that each week,” they wrote. “Moreover, the monthly amount awarded to illegal immigrants will be over twice the amount given to veterans living in the city.”

The lawmakers also chided Adams over the city’s “sanctuary” status, as well as the city’s transportation and housing programs that they claimed are encouraging “illegal immigrants” to flood the city.

“Your refusal to coordinate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement has created a safe haven for migrants who believe they can illegally cross our borders, obtain a free bus ticket to Manhattan, and receive free food and housing without risk of being deported,” they wrote.

The letter adds to the growing backlash over the controversial program, which got underway in late March with about 500 migrant families getting prepaid debit cards to purchase food and baby supplies.

The program, which will offer up to $1,000 a month for each migrant family, is a partnership between Adams and the company Mobility Capital Finance, which says the plan will help migrants with food, baby supplies and other necessities as they await federal work authorization.

The Adams administration has defended the program as a “cost savings measure” that would temporarily replace New York City’s existing system of providing non-perishable food boxes to migrant families staying in hotels and other city-funded shelters. It is expected to cost about $600,000 a month, according to the Adams administration.

New York City has seen more than 183,000 asylum seekers arrive over the past year amid a historic surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. Over the past year, the city has spent more than $1 billion on tens of thousands of migrants under its care and expects to spend about $10 billion on migrant costs in coming years.

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