The road to control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2024 elections will almost certainly lead through New York. So the how the state deals with newly arrived migrants will likely be a hot-button political issue over the next year and a half.

Like Gov. Kathy Hochul, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin told Capital Tonight on Tuesday he would lobby the federal government for further resources, but that’s where his policies toward migrants would diverge from the governor’s.

“I believe we should finish construction of the border wall, end Catch & Release; enforce the “Remain in Mexico” policy, support our customs and border patrol agents (and) stop incentivizing and rewarding illegal entry,” Zeldin stated.

Zeldin believes New York is telegraphing to migrants in Mexico that the state will provide them with free housing, free health care and free education, which is prompting them to travel here and taxing our social safety net.

“If you’re not yet in the U.S., and you see what is waiting for you in New York, there is an incentive to go your own path, not following the rules,” Zeldin said.

While Zeldin views migrants as a short-term burden, Gov. Hochul sees them as long-term economic benefit.

In a conversation on NY1 this week, she told host Errol Louis that the populations of cities including Buffalo, Syracuse and Utica would have declined if not for migrants. She warned that their ability to work is key to that long-term success. 

“Buffalo's population would've declined. It went up over 8,000, which is a big deal for a city that size. I have walked the streets. I've gone to the refugee centers. I know what they did in Buffalo, but here's the difference: they all had legal work status,” she said. “In fact, they're required to work for five years in order to receive permanent legal status. That's the difference. So, they're taking jobs immediately. Jobs that employers are saying, 'We're so grateful you're here.'"

It's a message reiterated by some in the business community, including Justin Wilcox, the executive director of the group Upstate United.

"As more asylees arrive in our upstate communities, we reiterate our call to expedite the process in which these individuals are able to obtain legal, gainful employment - particularly given the thousands of open positions throughout the region. Any change to the current barriers due to Federal law would be mutually beneficial to employers and asylum seekers alike,” Wilcox said in an emailed statement sent to the media.

 During a conversation with Capital Tonight, the chair of the New York State Democratic Party in New York, Jay Jacobs, predicted the state would soon see expedited work permits as well as more financial resources from the federal government.

“I have confidence in the governor,” he said. 

Jacobs also criticized Zeldin and the Republican Party for their push to cut the budget.

“It’s interesting to hear Lee Zeldin say these things when the Republican Party that he supports and is a part of has looked for ways to cut the budget, in fact, cutting border security by 22% with their freeze on budget and spending,” he said.

According to a fact checking article by Newsweek, "Republicans have not directly called for the cutting of border agents; rather, budgetary plans submitted by the conservative wing of Republican lawmakers would, according to the White House, create budget cuts that would lead to the loss of 2,000 border staff positions. However, the House Freedom Caucus, which made the proposals, dismissed the Biden administration's criticisms.”