Prostitution Boom in New York City Fueled by Illegal Immigrants From Venezuela, Mayor Says

This is just ‘one example’ of the impact the ongoing border crisis has on New York City, Mayor Adams said.
Prostitution Boom in New York City Fueled by Illegal Immigrants From Venezuela, Mayor Says
New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York in New York City on Sept. 18, 2023. (Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)
Bill Pan

The influx of female illegal immigrants struggling to find other work is fueling the rise of a new red-light district in New York City, Mayor Eric Adams said on Tuesday.

Speaking at his weekly press briefing, Mr. Adams acknowledged that “illegal activities” involving illegal immigrant women are taking place in the Corona neighborhood in the borough of Queens. He said this is just “one example” of the impact the ongoing border crisis has on his city.

“I went out there—I think around about 1:30 a.m., and it was clear that there were [sic] illegal activity taking place there,” Mr. Adams told reporters.

“When I talk about the spiraling impact of how this is going to affect our city, this is what I’m talking about,” he said. “We are going to create generational problems based on the failure of the national government, and this is one example of that.”

The Democrat mayor’s comments come as prostitutes soliciting in public becomes an increasingly more common scene at the now-notorious stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, even during hours when children get out of school. In popular YouTube videos documenting New York urban life, those women can be seen loitering outside shops and massage parlors during the day and at night.

According to recent reports by New York’s Pix 11, many of those women are illegal immigrants who have recently arrived from Venezuela. It is unclear if they have been trafficked and coerced into sex exploitation.

“Our intel is telling us there’s a level of accuracy to that,” Mr. Adams replied when asked about Pix 11’s reports.

He then took the opportunity to criticize elected officials who are in favor of legalizing prostitution, saying that they have been idealizing sex work while overlooking “real issues” surrounding it.

“This is where idealism collides with realism,” the mayor said. “While we are fighting to address the issues of sex workers, sex trafficking, there are elected officials who are fighting against us trying to legalize sex work.”

In New York City, prostitution is considered a Class B misdemeanor carrying a punishment of up to three months in prison or up to a $500 fine or both. Patronizing a prostitute, meanwhile, is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and up to a $1,000 fine or both.

“They believe it is a victimless crime, and I’ve had elected officials telling me, ‘The women are just trying to work; why are you trying to harm them?’” Mr. Adams said, referring to the city lawmakers pushing for the legalization of prostitution.

“There are real issues around illegal sex work, from STDs to sex trafficking, to young girls getting involved with it, to violence. So people who don’t understand how serious this is. They are impeding our progress,” he added.

The city has also identified another location of concern in East New York in Brooklyn, according to Mr. Adams. He said his office would focus on “giving assistance” to those women and prosecuting their patrons.

“We’re going to need a real partnership to prosecute the johns,” he said. “We want to focus on the johns, and we want to focus on giving assistance to those sex workers to make sure that they’re not being forced into this activity, but also abide by the law.”

Biden Admin Offers Venezuelans Temporary Protections

In September, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted citizens of Venezuela who entered the United States on or before July 31, 2023, temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months. During this period, eligible Venezuelan nationals could apply for employment and travel authorization and are protected from deportation.

Nationwide, the TPS extension is expected to affect as many as 472,000 Venezuelan nationals. According to Mr. Adams’s office, an estimated 15,000 individuals living in the city’s shelters would qualify for TPS.

“It is critical that Venezuelans understand that those who have arrived here after July 31, 2023, are not eligible for such protection, and instead will be removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in the designation announcement.

However, some observers have raised concerns that the new TPS policy would backfire and exacerbate illegal border crossings. Although Mr. Mayorkas has clarified that the changes do not apply to Venezuelans who came after July 31, many could still be mistakenly convinced that they, too, will get legal work authorization while being shielded from deportation.

“Mayorkas knows that’s an empty threat,” Andrew Arthur, a resident fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, wrote in an analysis.

“The main point is that Mayorkas’s TPS extension is simply going to encourage even more Venezuelans to enter illegally, exactly as DHS’s March 2021 TPS announcement spurred on the Venezuelan migrant surge that the country as a whole—and NYC in particular—has been experiencing ever since,” Mr. Arthur argued.

“If Adams is correct, you'd better visit the Big Apple while you can because it’s not going to last long,” he added, referring to the mayor’s previous warning that the illegal immigration crisis “will destroy” his city.