The Merits of NYC Mayor’s Border ‘Decompression’ Strategy

Share migrants with San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and Philadelphia

By Andrew R. Arthur on February 2, 2023

In a January 24 post, I analyzed border security proposals advanced by New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) in the Washington Post. Most of them wouldn’t do much while one, “a decompression strategy”, was confusing because I wasn’t familiar with the term. On January 31, Adams was on CBS News, where he elaborated on this issue, which may actually have some merit, though likely not in the way he thinks. Biden can start implementing the mayor’s proposal by sending migrants to San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and Philadelphia and see how they like it.

“My House is Burning.” According to Adams, NYC has received 43,000 migrants of late.

Most of them were likely among the estimated 1.8 million who were apprehended by Border Patrol and released into the United States since Biden took office, but more than a few may be among the 1.28 million-plus migrants who have evaded apprehension and made their way to the interior since FY 2021 (known colloquially as “got-aways”).

As Fox News reported on January 28, an average of 2,450 got-aways have entered daily in the last 120 days, and those numbers add up quickly.

In any event, Adams told CBS News that it will cost his city around $2.8 billion in the next fiscal year to “clothe, house, educate, and care for” those migrants.

He was softly critical of the Biden administration’s response, which in his terms largely consisted of a push for “comprehensive reform” (read: amnesty), a plan he compared to “fire prevention”. I don’t really get the analogy, but perhaps the mayor will elucidate in some future disclosure.

By contrast, according to Adams, the more immediate issue is the migrants who are continuing to arrive, or in the mayor’s terms, “What we’re not getting right is the fire right now. You know, if my house is burning, don’t tell me about fire prevention tactics, we gotta put out the fire.” As anchor John Dickerson put it, “Spoken like a former New York Police Department captain.”

Decompression Strategy. With respect to the mayor’s decompression strategy, Adams asserted:

We need someone specifically assigned to the decompression strategy so that we’re not having governors on both sides of the aisle sent to certain cities. If we do a proper decompression strategy, then all of the country would absorb a smaller amount and we won’t look like what we’re doing now.

Not satisfied with that rambling response, Dickerson asked correspondent Ed O’Keefe what Adams meant by a “decompression strategy”, but O’Keefe never explained further. No worries, though — I can pull enough out of that statement to offer some insight.

In his Washington Post op-ed, the mayor called for the naming of “a government official solely focused on overseeing the migrant response and coordinating all relevant agencies and government entities, including the U.S. Border Patrol”. That’s the “someone specifically assigned” to which he alludes.

Of course, that was supposed to be Vice President Kamala Harris’ job, but she doesn’t seem interested, and I am not sure that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is the man for the task, either.

It may be difficult to remember, but on March 25, 2021 — the day after Politico reported that Biden had named Harris as the “point person on immigration issues amid border surge” — NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne identified Ambassador Roberta Jacobson as the “Special Assistant to the President and Coordinator for the Southwest Border”.

Consequently, Jacobson would appear to fit Adams’ bill. The only problem is that she stepped down from that thankless position after a month at the end of April 2021, and to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t been filled since.

If Harris won’t do the job, and Mayorkas has been relegated to some combination of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the White House’s Shakespearean border drama, Adams is right: it’s incumbent on the administration to name a border quarterback, if for no other reason than to have that person offer some explanation for the president’s feckless policies and face the resulting congressional fire.

Adams used that phrase “decompression strategy” as well in his Washington Post op-ed, calling for “a decompression strategy at the border that evaluates asylum claims, establishes a plan for each migrant’s arrival — before entry into the United States — and a system to fairly distribute newcomers regionally”.

I assumed that strategy solely consisted of evaluating asylum claims, but apparently it dovetails with Adams’ call for the forced relocation of migrants throughout the United States.

In that earlier post, I was critical of the mayor’s call for a “system to fairly distribute newcomers regionally”, calling it “unworkable” and questioning whether Adams really wanted “the migrants whom he claims to care so much about to be sent to places where the unemployment rate is high and they don’t know anybody”.

I stand by that assessment, as well as by my contention that it was better to detain those migrants in a place “where room and board is already paid for and medical care readily available”.

Adams’ Modest Decompression Proposal. Absent the administration detaining those migrants (which the president has been loath to do, even though Congress has mandated it), however, I am warming to Adams’ decompression/relocation idea.

According to the Census Bureau, NYC was home to about 8.4 million residents as of July 2021, meaning that there are now about .005 migrants per resident, or conversely about 195 residents per migrant.

I used to live in San Francisco, and I loved the town. The weather’s great (except in the late fall and early winter when it rains), there’s a lot of culture, and the views are breathtaking. San Francisco had about 815,000 residents in July 2021, so if the residents there assumed the same load their fellows in Gotham are shouldering, they should take in 4,075 migrants of their own.

Seattle also has great views, as well as excellent coffee and a vibrant music scene, though it’s a little rainier there. In July 2021, there were just short of 734,000 Seattleites, so under Adams’ scheme, they can take in an additional 3,670 migrants.

Or how about Boston? About 655,000 people were living there in July 2021, so perhaps Adams could convince them that an additional 3,275 “asylum seekers” would not be an unreasonable imposition. I trust that the nearly 350,000 college students in “Beantown” would be happy to pitch in, and would likely get liberal arts credits for doing so.

Or, if the mayor really wanted to make a dent, he could ask his fellow chief executive, Philadelphia’s Jim Kenney (D) to lend a hand. The “City of Brotherly Love” has plenty to share, and with 1.576 million residents in July 2021, it would probably demand more than its ration of 7,880 migrants.

Kenney famously “did a little dance” in June 2018 after a federal judge ruled that the Trump DOJ could not withhold funding to the city over its illegal-immigrant-protection policies (singing “We are a sanctuary city — yeahhhh!”), so he would likely do a full reel and belt out a ballad once 10,000 new migrants arrived.

By the way, either Mayor Adams’ math is bad, or mine is. Thanks to Biden’s policies, more than three million new illegal migrants are now in the United States, a country of 334 million. If apportioned equally, that’s 111 residents per migrant, or about .009 migrants per resident. So, to be fair, NYC should be taking in an additional 32,450 newcomers, and you can double the numbers above for San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and Philadelphia. And expect many, many more in the next two years.

It should not simply be border-adjacent towns like El Paso and Uvalde, Texas, that are left dealing with the fallout from the administration’s poorly reasoned border policies. Perhaps the president should seriously consider Mayor Adams’ decompression plan, and start sending thousands of migrants to San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and especially Philadelphia. Maybe they’ll like open borders and lax enforcement even more then — or maybe they won’t.