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Republicans accelerate probe into Biden administration's actions to house migrants on federal lands

FIRST ON FOX: House Republicans are accelerating their ongoing probe into the Biden administration's decision to allow New York to house migrants on federal land.

FIRST ON FOX: House Republicans are doubling down in their ongoing investigation into the White House over its decision to allow plans to house migrants on public land in New York.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., the top GOP member of the panel's oversight subcommittee, sent a series of new questions and document requests to White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairwoman Brenda Mallory in a letter Monday. 

According to Republicans, the White House's migrant housing plans appear to disregard environmental concerns.

The pair opened the probe in November, issuing their first request for additional information regarding the environmental approval process for leasing Gateway National Recreation Area's Floyd Bennett Field — property located in New York City's Brooklyn borough and managed by the National Park Service — to the local government for migrant housing. Mallory, though, ignored that letter.


"Your silence and lack of a response to the Committee Letter suggests that CEQ is deliberately engaging in obstruction to frustrate the oversight power of Congress. This is unacceptable," Westerman and Gosar wrote in the letter. 

"The American public deserves transparency, and the Committee will use every tool at its disposal to administer effective oversight and fulfill the Committee's responsibility to the American people."

In September, amid the ongoing migrant surge at the southern border and related influx in New York City, the Department of the Interior (DOI) agreed to lease portions of Floyd Bennett Field's property. Officials then constructed temporary housing on land along the shore of Jamaica Bay.


However, the Republican leaders have pointed out that, prior to the decision to lease the property, Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul noted the DOI had itself argued such an action would likely violate federal laws. The governor, who has called for federal assistance in dealing with her state's migrant influx, remarked in August that officials told her office "they do not allow for use of shelter on any of their properties."

The Republicans also expressed concern the White House Council on Environmental Quality allowed the DOI to bypass the normal eco review process mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The 1969 law requires federal agencies to review the environmental impacts of projects and proposals on federal land before approval.

"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," Westerman and Gosar wrote in November. "Alarmingly, to secure the FBF Lease, NPS requested and received alternative arrangements for National Environmental Policy Act compliance." 

They added that national parks are designed for recreation and are "not a place to house people, temporarily or permanently, who lack shelter."

The ongoing investigation comes as migrants continue to flood the southern border in record numbers and Republicans call for the Biden administration to make structural reforms to secure the border.

In December, more than 302,000 migrants were encountered attempting to cross the U.S. southern border, by far the largest single month figure ever recorded. The number also brought fiscal 2024 first-quarter numbers to 785,000 encounters, the highest number ever recorded.

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.

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