Big city mayors get audience with administration officials to pitch a request for help with migrants

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FILE - Run by a private firm hired by the city, migrants stay in a makeshift shelter at O'Hare International Airport, Sept. 20, 2023, in Chicago. Five mayors from around the U.S. want a meeting with President Joe Biden to ask for help controlling the continued arrival of large groups of migrants to their cities. The mayors of Denver, Chicago, Houston, New York and Los Angeles say in a letter to Biden that there has been little to no coordination, support or resources and that is leading to a crisis. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File Photo)

WASHINGTON – Biden administration officials hosted big city mayors at the White House on Thursday to discuss how to manage a growing number of migrants, one day after those leaders sent a letter asking for more federal help.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson met with White House chief of staff Jeff Zients and Homeland Security Department officials before heading to Capitol Hill for meetings with lawmakers.

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“I had a good series of conversations,” said Johnston, who led the coalition. “I think we shared our sense of urgency and we shared this belief that we need funding, but really what we want is a longer-term solution."

The other Democratic mayors who signed onto the letter to President Joe Biden were Karen Bass of Los Angeles, Sylvester Turner of Houston and Eric Adams of New York. The meeting came together quickly and not all five could make it.

Adams said he was abruptly returning home from a planned trip to Washington so he could “deal with a matter” — an announcement that came just before news that federal agents had raided the home of a top Adams fundraiser and longtime confidante.

Biden has requested $1.4 billion from Congress to help state and local governments provide shelter and services for migrants, after earlier pleas from Democratic mayors and governors.

But Johnston and the other mayors have asked for $5 billion along with making work authorizations available more quickly and to anyone who is allowed into the United States. They also pitched a collaborative approach to managing migrants, mirroring how Ukrainian refugees were settled.

Johnston said many people are in shelters and straining budgets because they lack the ability to work. If they could work, the cities would require less federal aid to help house them.

“I think they seem receptive,” Johnston said of federal officials. “I know none of it's simple. But I do know they are open to ideas and they see the merit of the concept.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the discussion was productive and that officials were working on accelerating work permits.

“This is something that we took very very seriously,” she said. “We're going to continue to have those conversations. We understand what they're going through we understand what's going on on the ground."

It's unclear whether House Republicans will fund any of Biden's request for help for the cities.