Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Rep. Lee Zeldin clashed Monday night at the final GOP gubernatorial debate ahead of the June 28 GOP primary about secretive flights bringing migrants from the southern border.
“I’m the only one sounding the alarm on this,” Astorino said while referring to his ongoing calls for Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to demand more details from the federal government on the incoming arrivals.
Recent flights to the northern New York City suburbs include “single adult men” who Astorino has claimed are not properly vetted. They and younger migrants transported by the flights, meanwhile, also drain sources away from lawful residents, according to Astorino.
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“They then get cash assistance in that two billion dollar fund from New York. Those who are here and they’re elderly, they get Medicare from New York. That’s not even allowed by the federal government but New York picks up the tab,” he said Monday night.
A so-called, multi-billion dollar, Excluded Workers Fund was established by Albany Democrats to provide cash assistance to undocumented people who can use a variety of paperwork to establish their state residency and eligibility.
The Monday night exchange on the issue of the migrant flights was one of many examples of Zeldin primary rivals Astorino, businessman Harry Wilson and former White House aide Andrew Giuliani trying to trip Zeldin up ahead of the final day of voting on June 28.
“This is a national security issue. This is a finance issue as well because it affects everybody and everywhere,” Astorino said during the hour-long slugfest hosted by Newsmax.
“But you’re a member of Congress, Lee, you should be doing something,” he added.
Zeldin – the putative frontrunner based on polling, endorsements and fundraising – deflected the barb by expressing his support for immigration policies championed by former President Donald Trump.
“We should have finished construction on the border wall. We should have been ramping up interior enforcement. We should be supporting our ICE and our customs and border patrol rather than throwing them under the bus as the Biden administration has been doing,” Zeldin said.
The Long Island congressman, who was recently endorsed by the Post Editorial Board, then tried to one-up Astorino by citing other dangers coming to New York state because of lax border policies.
“I’ve been advocating for cutting off the Biden administration travel agencies where they’re paying for flights they’re giving them phones and other goodies. We shouldn’t be rewarding and incentivizing illegal entries. It’s not just people coming across. It’s fentanyl and it’s killing our kids so we have to see Congress take action once the House flips this November,” Zeldin said.