Columnist Byron York: On migrants, New York still can’t face reality
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has taken a leading role among Democrats in conceding the damage done to local communities by the Biden administration’s policy of allowing millions of illegal border crossers to remain in the United States. Adams recently raised eyebrows in his party by saying the arrival of thousands of illegal asylum-seekers, with their enormous demands for economic and social services, “will destroy New York City.”
“Month after month, I stood up and I said, ‘This is going to come to a neighborhood near you,’” Adams told a community meeting last week. “Well, we’re here. We’re getting no support on this national crisis. ... Let me tell you something, New Yorkers. Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this. I don’t see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City.”
City officials estimate that more than 110,000 migrants have arrived in New York in the current crisis. Adams said the cost of caring for them will balloon the city’s deficit and force cuts in services for New York residents. “I said it last year when we had 15,000,” Adams said, “and I’m telling you now, with 110,000: the city we knew, we’re about to lose.”
It’s remarkable to hear a prominent Democrat say something like that, given that this is a problem created by a sitting Democratic president. But for all his candor, Adams still cannot admit what is causing the crisis that he says threatens to destroy his city.
“It started with a madman down in Texas deciding he wanted to bus people up to New York City,” Adams said, referring to Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who several months ago began busing groups of willing migrants to New York. But here’s the thing: Abbott recently announced that Texas has sent a total of just more than 13,300 migrants to New York since August 2022. New York, however, says it has received more than 110,000 migrants.
If New York has received 110,000, but only 13,000 came from Texas, then where did the other 97,000 or so migrants come from? If Mayor Adams knew, he might have a better idea of the source of New York’s problem.
I asked Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors more restrictions on immigration. “It’s ridiculous for Mayor Adams to blame Gov. Abbott for this problem, when only 13,000 came on buses organized by Texas,” Vaughan responded in an email exchange. “Besides, many of them probably were looking to get to New York anyway. Texas is mainly facilitating what the migrants want to do already.”
But how did the 97,000 get to New York? First of all, the Biden administration appears to be directly arranging flights of illegal border crossers to the New York area. Beyond that, Vaughan notes: “Some are taking buses organized by non-governmental organization contractors in Texas and other border states, who are being paid by the federal government, with taxpayer money. Some, including ‘gotaways’ who evaded the Border Patrol, are coming on their own or assisted by smugglers in the traditional way. Some are coming from the northern border, which is also experiencing record illegal entries.”
Vaughan noted that “one attraction” for the illegal border crossers is “New York’s self-designation as a sanctuary city.” The migrants know the city will feed them, give them a place to stay, deliver other social services, educate their children, give them a municipal ID and a driver’s license. Even if they get in trouble with the law, they know they will not be turned over to immigration authorities.
Adams speaks as if he is helpless to deal with the sheer volume of migrants — which, it should be noted, is less than the number of migrants who arrive at the southern border every couple of days. But the mayor has powers of his own. “He could take steps to mitigate the problem,” Vaughan said. “Why not try to work with Gov. Abbott instead of calling him a madman? Demand that Biden shut down the flow on the border? Refuse to allow the migrants to be bused in and sheltered in inappropriate places like hotels, at least without coordination with New York officials? (Putting the migrants in hotels is almost certainly a violation of zoning laws, which is how 30 New York counties obtained restraining orders against migrant placements in their jurisdictions.) Warn potential employers that hiring illegal workers will not be tolerated. Try to work with ICE to identify and remove the criminals among the new arrivals.”
“There is a lot Adams could do,” Vaughan concluded. “He is the mayor, not a doormat.”
But first Adams would have to admit the source of the problem — and it is not Greg Abbott. New York’s migrant problems are the result of policies promised by candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race and delivered by President Joe Biden in the two years and eight months since January 2021. Railing about a “madman” in Texas will not solve a problem that started in the White House.