'They're excellent swimmers', NYC Mayor suggests hiring migrants as lifeguards

NYC faces a lifeguard shortage ahead of Memorial Day, prompting calls for expedited work visas for skilled migrants.

'They're excellent swimmers', NYC Mayor suggests hiring migrants as lifeguards
AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
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New York City Mayor Eric Adams has proposed a controversial solution to address the city's lifeguard shortage: hiring migrants because "they're excellent swimmers." The mayor made the comment during a City Hall briefing when asked about lifeguard staffing at the city's beaches and pools, which have increasingly faced issues in recent years, particularly with the approach of Memorial Day, the New York Post reported.

Adams suggested that the lifeguard shortages could be easily resolved if migrant work visas were expedited for jobs that needed to be filled quickly. "How do we have a large body of people that are in our city, our 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," the mayor said. "That just doesn't make sense."

The mayor's comments come amidst an ongoing crisis at the US-Mexico border, where scores of migrants wade across the Rio Grande every day in an attempt to enter the United States. This out-of-control situation has flooded New York City with immigrants in need of shelter, food, medical care, and other necessities.

Adams also mentioned a range of other jobs that could be filled if red tape were cut and work permits were expedited for skilled migrants, including food service workers and nurses. "It's the same for lifeguards. We have all these eligible people waiting to work, with the skills we need to do the jobs, but we are unable to allow them to work because bureaucracy is in the way," he said.

Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi provided an update on the current lifeguard shortage, stating that 560 first-time lifeguards passed the "rigorous" testing for positions ahead of the summer this year, compared to 364 applicants last year. The exact number of existing lifeguards set to be recertified for this summer was not immediately clear.

The Adams administration has made efforts to recruit new lifeguards over the past few years, increasing the pay to $22 per hour and offering $1,000 bonuses for those who work through the peak season. Approximately 1,500 lifeguards are needed to staff the city's 14 miles of beaches and public pools.

While this is not the first time Mayor Adams has called for migrants to fill lifeguard positions, his recent comments specifically linking their swimming ability to the job have sparked debate about the appropriateness and feasibility of such a proposal.

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