Eric Adams
© AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie, FileNew York City Mayor Eric Adams
New York Mayor Eric Adams argued that illegal immigrants could be hired to fill lifeguard shortages because they're "excellent swimmers."

He made the comment after he was asked Tuesday at a briefing about the city's lifeguard shortages ahead of Memorial Day weekend and the summer season.

"How do we have a large body of people that are in our city, in our country, that are excellent swimmers and at the same time we need lifeguards โ€” 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," he said.

Noting that migrants, of whom New York City has seen a major recent influx, might be good swimmers plays on old stereotypes and slurs.

A common derisive term for illegal immigrants, Mexican-Americans and Hispanics generally, is "wetback," so called from getting their backs wet while swimming across the Rio Grande into the U.S.

Mr. Adams talked about expediting the migrants' work visas to fill the jobs that have a shortage, including food service workers and nurses.

"If we had a plan that said, 'If there was a shortage of food service workers and those who fit that criteria, we're going to expedite you; if you have experience that you are a nurse and we have a nursing shortage, we would expedite you,'" he said.

"It's the same for lifeguards. So, 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 added.

The U.S. has had a lifeguard shortage since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities have offered pay bumps and bonuses to entice people to apply and train.