Eric Adams
NYC Mayor Eric Adams AFP

New York City Mayor Eric Adams addressed criticism received for saying migrants are "excellent swimmers" and could help with the shortage of lifeguards in the state if they were given job permits.

Speaking to Telemundo, the mayor called the blowback "silly" and said the spirit of the message had been twisted. "We're in a society where everyone has turned into a word police" with the purpose to "demonize."

"When I ask migrants and asylum-seekers how many have worked in the food service industry, hospitals or are swimmers, many raise their hands," Adams added.

The controversy began when Adams was asked about the potential shortage at the city's public pools and beaches as Memorial Day approaches. He wondered how many jobs in high demand could be filled if the city could expedite licenses for migrants and asylum-seekers currently living there but unauthorized to work.

"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 — and the only obstacle is that we won't give them the right to work to become a lifeguard?", Adams said.

"So we have all these eligible people waiting to work with the skills we need to fill the jobs, but we're unable to allow them to work because bureaucracy is in the way. That doesn't make sense," he added.

Asked by the journalist if he could see how the comments could be considered offensive, Adams said that he "respects people's sensitivity."

"I would never interpret people's pain with that angle. Those who criticize me didn't go to the Darien, I have. I talked to people who crossed the Darien," he said in reference to the treacherous jungle path between Colombia and Panama used by hundreds of thousands of migrants on their way north.

Adams has been calling to expedite migrants' ability to work comes as the amount that made their way to New York City gets closer to 200,000, as well as 50,000 applications for asylum. In a statement to Fox 5 News a City Spokesperson said that more than 65,000 are still in the city's shelter system and hundreds are still arriving every day.

Authorities have repeatedly claimed that the existing infrastructure and resources are overwhelmed, with Mayor Adams saying "there is no more room" in New York City and calling for migrants to go elsewhere.

The mayor traveled to Italy during the weekend to learn about the way the country is handling its own influx of migrants. There, he said he was impressed with the way the European country quickly allows them to begin working and teaches them basic Italian language skills.

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