Eric Adams says comment about migrants being ‘excellent swimmers’ based on past conversations with them

Talking about the city’s shortage of lifeguards, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said migrants could fill the openings because they are “excellent swimmers.” He later noted that his comment was based on past conversations with migrants.

Adams was asked about the city’s lifeguard shortage at his weekly news conference on Tuesday. He wondered aloud, asking if the city could quickly hire migrants for jobs that needed to be filled.

“How do we have a large body of people that are in our city and country that are excellent swimmers, and at the same time we need lifeguards?” he said, reported by The New York Times.

On Wednesday, Adams said he visited migrant shelters in the city and asked people if they knew how to swim. He said he was “blown away” by the number of people who said yes.

“We have these capable people who know how to swim — from West Africa, from Ecuador, from South and Central America, from Mexico — and we have a shortage of lifeguards,” Adams said, responding to a question from a reporter.

He said if the city started its planning now, it could be prepared for next summer.

Adams’ comments drew criticism from immigration advocates for being “racist and divisive.” Murad Awawdeh, the president of the New York Immigration Coalition, told the Times that Adams’ comment is racist and he should not be making light of the journey that migrants take to travel to the United States, since some swim or wade across water in dangerous situations.

Almost 200,000 migrants have arrived in New York City in the last two years. Since the influx began, Adams has pushed for them to be able to work so they can support themselves.

“This hasn’t been new — I’ve been saying this over and over again: Let people work,” he said Wednesday.

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