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Press Release

Amid Ongoing Immigration Fiasco on NYC National Park Land, Committee Investigates CEQ's Role in Rushed Lease Process

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 14, 2023 | Committee Press Office (202-225-2761)
  • OI Subcommittee

This week, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) sent a letter to Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory, requesting information as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into the Biden administration's decision to waive environmental reviews and house migrants on National Park Service land. In part, the members wrote:

"Regardless of personal or political beliefs on immigration or migrant policy, there is common ground in keeping our national parks—some of America’s most treasured spaces—out of the debate. All national parks, whether in rural or urban areas, exist for visitors to experience wonder, to recreate and find joy, or to simply learn more about the great history of our nation. However, national parks are not a place to house people, temporarily or permanently, who lack shelter. The Governor of New York has gone on the record about the DOI’s initial reluctance to accommodate the request for migrant housing on Floyd Bennett Field due to statutory restraints. We agree that there is no statutory authority to house migrants on NPS land.

"Despite concerns with the legality of housing people on national park land, the Biden administration ultimately moved forward with using national park land to establish a migrant housing encampment. Alarmingly, to secure the Floyd Bennett Field (FBF) Lease, NPS requested and received alternative arrangements for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. CEQ concurred with the alternative arrangement request and allowed NPS and DOI to bypass the standard NEPA compliance process. CEQ’s approval of the alternative arrangement request was necessary for DOI and NPS to move forward with the FBF Lease. Recently, the Committee received additional information regarding CEQ’s integral role in the leasing process and the ultimate decision to use Floyd Bennett Field as a migrant housing encampment.

"The Committee is deeply concerned with the Biden administration leasing NPS land for use as a migrant encampment, a use that is not only inconsistent with the National Park Service Organic Act (P.L. 64-235), but publicly recognized as legally perilous by DOI. Moreover, the Committee is concerned with CEQ’s role in the leasing process, approval of the alternative arrangement request, and ultimate decision to use Floyd Bennett Field for migrant housing."

Read the full letter here.


Since President Joe Biden took office, there have been more than 5.8 million illegal crossings of the southern border of the United States. Many of these immigrants travel to self-identified "sanctuary cities" across the country, including New York City (NYC).

More than 136,000 migrants have arrived in NYC since the spring of 2022. NYC has an additional layer of complexity, as they have a "right to shelter" law, which requires all persons, regardless of their legal status, to be provided with a shelter and food, paid for by the city. NYC Mayor Eric Adams made national news by stating that the Biden administration's current immigration policies will "destroy the city."

Westerman and Gosar visited NYC in September to see the Roosevelt Hotel, a facility where hundreds of migrants are currently being processed, in order to learn about the housing problems facing a city that's already at max capacity. The facility has become so overcrowded that many migrants have resorted to sleeping on the street. Despite requesting access in advance, the members of Congress were denied entry and told no one was allowed inside, even though a Democrat delegation was given a full tour mere days earlier.

As a larger part of the effort to house illegal migrants, the state of New York and NYC asked the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to establish "temporary" housing for more than 2,000 migrants at Gateway National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park System. The Republican members visited this proposed site and saw firsthand that it's an incredible resource for NYC residents and visitors, providing kayaking, fishing and other outdoor recreation opportunities in the middle of an urban area. Turning the Gateway National Recreation Area into a migrant camp would immediately cut off the access NYC residents have enjoyed for years.

Westerman has launched a full investigation into this rushed process, and sent a letter to DOI Secretary Deb Haaland on Sept. 15, urging her to reverse the decision. The committee held a hearing on Sept. 27 to give elected officials from the NYC area a chance to voice their concerns and gave members of the committee the opportunity to understand how this hasty and damaging decision was made. Notably, the administration failed to send any witnesses to testify to defend their decision to turn units of the National Park System into migrant camps.