NYC Mayor Goes to El Paso

Calling for border leadership that is sorely lacking, but that should start in his own office

By Andrew R. Arthur on January 17, 2023

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) travelled to El Paso, Texas, over the weekend to survey the migrant situation there and to counter rumors spreading among the migrants that the streets in his city are “paved in gold”. NYC has received a flood of recent entrants from the Southwest border of late — largely due to the city’s sanctuary policies — but Adams also made a desperate call for leadership that should not fall on deaf ears. House Republicans should heed the call, but Adams can start in his own office.

El Paso, in Brief. The casual observer may wonder why Adams went to El Paso, but in many ways, it was the ideal destination for his purpose.

Illegal migration at the Southwest border has been surging ever since Joe Biden took office in late January 2021.

Between February 2021 and the end of November, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border have apprehended nearly four million illegal entrants, while at the same time, approximately 1.125 million others (known colloquially as “got-aways”) have evaded apprehension and headed inland.

Of the nearly four million aliens apprehended at the Southwest border under Biden, just fewer than two million have been expelled under CDC orders issued pursuant to Title 42 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. That has left more than two million who have been processed for removal pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Don’t be fooled by the phrase “processed for removal”. A small number of those migrants have actually been removed, either pursuant to “expedited removal” or reinstatement of removal orders those aliens previously incurred.

The vast majority, however — around 1.7 million by my estimates — have been released into the United States to await their removal proceedings. That process can take years, time that those aliens will be living and working (with authorization or without) in the United States.

DHS is supposed to detain all those illegal entrants — from the point they are apprehended until they are granted asylum or removed — but in any event, if you were to add them to the 1.125 million got-aways, you have more than 2.8 million new undocumented alien arrivals in less than two years.

At some point, numbers get so large as to be meaningless, but to put that population into context, that’s more people than reside in 14 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, or more people than live in Chicago, America’s third-largest city.

Some show up with money, education, and skills, but the vast majority don’t. In fact, most are not even passably able to communicate in English. That is not a knock on them — it’s just the truth.

Consequently, it is up to someone to provide food, shelter, and transportation for them. That “someone” is a combination of the federal government, states and localities, and charities and NGOs.

None of those entities, as a practical matter, has budgeted for this massive migrant surge. That includes the DHS agencies responsible for immigration enforcement.

Consequently, DHS has been releasing large numbers of migrants onto the streets of border towns and cities like El Paso to fend for themselves and make their way to their interior destinations, assuming they have one.

Texas has taken the brunt of Biden’s migrant surge, and in the early spring of 2022, border towns in that state were reeling with large numbers of migrants whom DHS had cut loose. To release the pressure, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) started busing migrants north, first to Washington, D.C., and then to NYC, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

In the late summer of 2022, El Paso started its own bus line for migrants to NYC and D.C. While Abbott’s efforts were derided as a “stunt” by a Republican governor in advance of a hotly contest midterm election, such claims were belied by the fact that El Paso — a “progressive” enclave in the Lone Star State — was doing the same thing, and for the same reasons.

Those buses were not sufficient to handle the burgeoning population of migrants in El Paso, and so in mid-December, Mayor Oscar Leeser — the Democratic winner of a nonpartisan election — declared a state of emergency, which was extended by the city’s largely liberal council a few days later.

El Paso has received a “double whammy” of migrants — both those who were released by DHS and who are therefore able to seek city resources, and got-aways, who are largely left to fend for themselves. The migrants who were rounded up by DHS in advance of Biden’s visit there on January 8 apparently fell into that latter category.

New York City. NYC is exponentially larger and wealthier than El Paso, and it has a robust social services system. Everything has its limits, however.

The border migrants who have arrived there since Biden took office are testing those limits. Recent reports indicate that 40,000 migrants who crossed the border illegally have made their way to NYC, which spent an estimated $400 million for their care in 2022. Federal aid has only covered about $10 million of that tab, which is increasingly leaving Adams in a fiscal hole.

That, as much as anything, is why Adams headed to El Paso, coupled with the fact that he would be sure to receive a warm welcome from Leeser and his fellow partisans there.

That said, you can’t blame the migrants for wanting to head to the Big Apple, or Leeser or Abbott for wanting to send them there — it’s a proud “sanctuary jurisdiction”. As Adams’ Office for Immigrant Affairs explains on its website:

New York City is committed to fostering a welcoming city for immigrant families.

New York City has policies to ensure that all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status can access the City services they need. City employees will not ask you about your immigration status unless it is required by law or is necessary to determine your eligibility for services and/or benefits. City employees will not share your immigration status or other confidential information with anyone, except in limited circumstances when required by law.

New York City does not enforce federal immigration law. That is the responsibility of the federal government. In cases where there is a threat to public safety, local law enforcement will work with federal partners to protect the public.

There’s a whole “Know Your Rights” section for aliens there, too (with cartoon videos), but notably absent is any explanation of the “responsibilities” newcomers to the city are assuming — logically because there aren’t any.

Respectfully, given the fact that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has largely negated immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States, that whole website is little more than sanctimonious bloviation spiced with a healthy dose of virtue signaling.

Such outreach, however, is a magnet drawing foreign nationals to enter the United States illegally, safe in the knowledge that once they make it to the streets of Gotham (which are not, in fact, paved with gold), they are home free. If anyone has a right to be miffed, it’s Abbott, Leeser, and their constituents.

Call for Leadership. Rather than rip up the check to migrants his office has written on his own website, however, Adams has now headed down to the border to stop more migrants from coming to cash it.

He also had a message for the federal government, arguing:

Our cities are being undermined. ... And we don’t deserve this. Migrants don’t deserve this and the people who live in the cities don’t deserve this. We expect more from our national leaders to address this issue in a real way.

With respect to whether NYC “deserves this” or not, perhaps the mayor should look at his own pronouncements. Those sanctuary policies did not start with him, but he’s not doing anything to reverse them, either.

That said, his point about the need for our national leaders to address the illegal migration issue “in a real way” is well taken. Biden was the lucky beneficiary of what his first Border Patrol chief described as “arguably the most effective border security in” U.S. history, but in short order he blithely wrecked it.

I will not repeat former President Obama’s earthy warnings about Biden’s propensity to make a hash of things, but of all of his missteps in his long political career, the current chaotic and dismal state of the Southwest border ranks right up at the top.

Biden could prove Obama wrong by righting the ship at the Southwest border, but he shows little real intent to do so. Therefore, the leadership Adams demands will have to come from his more savvy and seasoned advisors at the White House. They have reportedly been pushing a change for over a year, but thus far they have been rebuffed. It’s time for them to redouble their efforts.

Perhaps Adams could appeal to his fellow Empire State Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, for some practical response to the miasma at the Southwest border, but Schumer recently promoted amnesty “for all 11 million, or however many” illegal aliens there are in the United States, so he’s not likely to be much help.

So, in the spirit of the bipartisanship between Leeser and Abbott, Adams could bring his pleas to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Many in McCarthy’s GOP conference are (understandably) angry about Biden’s border fecklessness, but rage will not help them politically or the border as a practical matter.

McCarthy should not expect a fair shake from a national media largely ignorant of the actual scope or effects of the chaos at the Southwest border, and I understand that “politics ain’t beanbag”, but recent polling shows that “immigration” is in the top four issues voters expect Congress to address (with the economy, inflation, and crime), so it is incumbent on the House GOP to set rancor aside and get started.

That said, Adams should get his own house in order before he expects anyone else to act. The half million-plus illegal residents in NYC have created their own constituency, but the mayor will have to pull in the welcome mat before he expects congressional Republicans to put down a border-security marker.

Adams is correct that leadership on the border is necessary, but it needs to come not just from the White House and Capitol Hill, but from Gracie Mansion as well. Adams vows to bring the border up with his fellow mayors, “Because today it’s El Paso ... Tomorrow it could be their cities.” The mayor’s a little late — it’s already their cities, and his, too.