Republican border-state governors are sending busloads of illegal entrants — released in their states by the Department of Homeland Security — to DC and New York City, prompting recriminations and pleas for federal cash from the Democratic mayors of those erstwhile immigrant-friendly cities.
Those mayors, seemingly unwittingly, are making the governors’ point — that the administration has created a disaster at the US-Mexico line, requiring an immediate policy shift to protect lives and state and local finances.
It started in April. Fed up with federal releases of large numbers of migrants into overwhelmed small towns in his state (including Uvalde), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) began offering migrants free bus trips to DC to shift some of the burden to Washington.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) followed suit in May, and more than 7,300 migrants have since arrived in DC from the two states, creating what even Vanity Fair has termed, “A Migrant Crisis in Washington.”
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who reaffirmed her town’s status as an immigrant “sanctuary city” after Donald Trump’s 2016 election, now derides Abbott’s and Ducey’s efforts as “cruel political gamesmanship” creating a “humanitarian crisis” in her city that “must be dealt with at the federal level” in a letter to the Department of Defense seeking National Guard support (since rejected).
Bowser was complaining about what, at the time, totaled 4,000 migrants over a three-month period into her city of more than 707,000. In March, by comparison, DHS was dropping off up to 150 migrants per day in Uvalde, population 15,312, or roughly one migrant for every 102 residents daily.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) also weighed in, blaming Texas and Arizona in July for busing 2,800 migrants into his city (population: 8.467 million) over a six-week period, straining the city’s homeless shelters. Adams also demanded federal cash to help his government muddle through.
Both governors denied Adams’ charge, but Abbott apparently viewed it an invitation, as he has just started sending buses to Manhattan, too.
Adams’ office and The New York Times described those migrants in New York as “asylum seekers,” but that’s just mostly untrue. DHS statistics show that between July 2021 and July 2022, the department had cleared fewer than 40,000 “arriving aliens” to apply for asylum in the United States.
During that same period, however, CBP encountered 2.361 million arrivals at the southwest border, expelled 1.142 million under CDC’s pandemic-related Title 42 orders (that Biden nonetheless opposes) and released around 853,000 into the United States — meaning only about 5% of the migrants Adams is complaining about are really “asylum seekers.”
All those migrants, cleared for asylum or not, were released for removal hearings, which can take years to complete. Nationwide, the average immigration case has been pending 829 days and 953 days in New York. The only relief available to most of those illegal immigrants is asylum, so the ones who do show up for court will apply for that protection to stay here longer, even if they just came to make more money.
The New York Times’ article focused on Venezuelan migrants in New York City. Under Biden, agents at the southwest border have caught 157,600 Venezuelans, 57% of them single adults. Just 1,404 were expelled under Title 42, meaning most of the rest are here indefinitely.
The Times contends the United States cannot send them back to Venezuela — with which America lacks diplomatic relations — but that contention elides the fact that, as The Washington Post reported in January, Biden had struck a deal with Colombia to take back Venezuelans who had resettled there.
Two million displaced Venezuelans have moved to Colombia, and more than a few likely entered illegally. It does not appear, however, that DHS sent many back or even asked apprehended Venezuelans where they were living before they came here.
I’m sympathetic to DC and New York City, but I’ve talked to officials in those much poorer border towns about their struggles to deal with the costs. Perhaps now that Democrats are complaining, the administration will finally pay attention.
Andrew Arthur, a former INS associate general counsel, congressional staffer and staff director, and immigration judge, is the Center for Immigration Studies’ resident fellow in law and policy.
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