Mayor Adams Under Fire for ‘Creative’ Solution to Lifeguard Shortage

( – New York City Mayor Eric Adams is receiving some criticism over his remark that immigrants were “excellent swimmers” while suggesting the city hire them to fill a shortage of lifeguards.

On Tuesday, May 14th, during a briefing at City Hall, Adams was asked about lifeguard staff shortages at the city’s pools and beaches ahead of Memorial Day and the hot season, a problem that has worsened over the last few years. The mayor then went off on a tangent, suggesting that the issue could be resolved if the government expedited visas for immigrants, who could quickly fill those positions.

Adams then asked how it was possible to have “a large body of people” in NYC and in the country who “are excellent swimmers” while needing more lifeguards at the same time and “the only obstacle” is not allowing them to legally work. The mayor said the situation “doesn’t make sense.” Adams then took his point further, potentially in an attempt to save face, by arguing that the new arrivals could do many other jobs that need filling if the red tape was cut and the permit process was sped up for immigrants with skills.

The NYC mayor said that if plans were made, such as trying to match immigrants who want to work with certain jobs if they “fit that criteria” and then expediting their work permits. Adams said that the same system should be applied to lifeguards because “all these eligible people waiting to work” have the skills needed to do so but that the city can’t allow them “because bureaucracy is in the way.”

Critics of Adams considered his comments insensitive by playing into stereotypes about Latin Americans, while others have pointed out—including a City Hall rep—that the mayor’s comments aren’t necessarily new and that he’s consistently suggested fast-tracking work permits for skilled immigrants in the city. The swimming skills remark also implies awarding illegal immigrants more than those who have arrived legally.

Every day, scores of people from South and Central America cross the wade through and swim across the Rio Grande River along the border of Mexico and Texas. Many of those who make it inside the U.S. and are allowed to stay do, in fact, end up in other cities across the country, including New York, which is struggling to deal with the influx of newcomers in need of resources.

Adam’s remarks raise the question: should the city hire someone who is good at swimming if that person broke the law to get here?

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