A conservative immigration group says the rise of unruly, half-naked panhandlers in New York City's Times Square is a sign of the lengths Democratic Mayor Bill De Blasio is willing to go in order to protect illegal immigrants at the expense of tourists.
Times Square tourists are often met with foul-mouthed, half-naked female panhandlers, known as "desnudas," according to recent reports.
While the city has instituted a boundary to protect tourists from panhandlers, called a "designated activity zone," many of the "desnudas" and costumed characters often stray outside the boundaries, cursing and threatening passers-by.
Law enforcement officials told the New York Post they feel their hands are tied because many of the unruly panhandlers are illegal immigrants and therefore off-limits for police under New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio's sanctuary city policy.
"This is the price De Blasio is willing to pay to protect illegal immigrants," Ira Mehlman, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a conservative organization advocating stricter immigration controls, told the Washington Examiner.
De Blasio's office is dismissing those reports by saying police are enforcing the designated activity zones and that a more active patrol of Times Square has driven down crime in the area.
"The city introduced designated activity zones to the pedestrian plazas, which have helped bring more order to the Times Square experience. NYPD has a dedicated unit of police officers that carefully patrol the area and have helped drive down indexed crime in the area by 24 percent this year. Tourists and New Yorkers alike continue to flock to the Crossroads of the World in droves, thanks in large part to the NYPD's diligent enforcement against illegal activity which has led to a more than 20 percent increase in summonses [this] year to date," De Blasio spokesman Austin Finan told the Washington Examiner.
Data provided to the Washington Examiner from the New York Police Department reveals there have been five arrests for disorderly panhandlers this year and 159 summonses issued. In 2016, there were 23 arrests and 137 summonses issued. A summons carries a fine of up to $500.
Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week put so-called sanctuary cities on notice, saying any city that prevents Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from entering prisons and jails will be subject to losing federal funds.
As Sessions eyes increasing staff along the border and adding to the number of ICE agents, Mehlman argues the attorney general could dispatch those agents to sanctuary cities like New York City.
"There is no limit on federal enforcement," Mehlman said, noting that the only issue that matters is whether the person in question is in the country illegally, regardless of how unruly or unclothed they are.