NYC Mayor Pins Blame for City’s Migrant Crisis on Feds

But the erstwhile ‘Biden of Brooklyn’ hasn’t spoken to the president in ‘nearly a year’

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 22, 2023

On Monday night, New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) took to the dais at a town hall on Brooklyn’s Coney Island to address cuts in the city’s budget, necessitated in part on the Southwest border surge that has brought 125,000 illegal migrants to the Big Apple. He correctly blamed the federal government for his fiscal woes, but his case would have been stronger had he brought it to the White House instead, particularly given that he hasn’t spoken to President Biden—his party’s titular leader—in “nearly a year”.

A Brief Migrant Timeline

As I explained back in September, Adams wasn’t always so stridently concerned about the illegal aliens in the city, lauding them on the 2021 campaign trail to his eventual mayoral victory as “essential employees”, while promoting NYC’s “sanctuary city” status.

That quickly changed, however, in response to events almost 2,000 miles away. In March 2022, Border Patrol began releasing illegal migrants into small south Texas towns far away from the border, which prompted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to start busing those migrants to Washington, D.C. in April. He was soon to be joined—on a lesser scale—by then-Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser took those new arrivals in stride for a while, but three months after Abbott’s busing program began, in July 2022, she demanded the Defense Department to provide her city with National Guard assistance to handle the flow.

Up to that point, no Texas state buses had dropped released migrants off into NYC; the aliens who had newly disembarked in the city had either come there on their own initiative or received a ride from the federal government. But that didn’t stop Adams from getting on the anti-Abbott bandwagon, as the New York Times reported on July 25, 2022:

Early last week, Mayor Eric Adams called for federal assistance to help with what he said was a flood of 2,800 asylum seekers who were making it difficult for New York City to fulfill its legal obligation to provide housing to those in need, known as the right to shelter.

Mr. Adams said the influx was partly caused by migrant families “arriving on buses sent by the Texas and Arizona governments.”

Abbott apparently took that as an invitation, and soon busloads of migrants were rolling north from the Lone Star State to Gotham as well.

Like Bowser before him, Adams initially embraced the migrants, greeting new and proclaiming in early August 2022: “As the mayor of the city of New York, I don’t weigh into immigration issues, border issues — I have to provide services for families that are here.”

Things change quickly, because a year later, in August 2023, Adams’ office was griping that:

As of August 13, more than 101,200 asylum seekers have come through New York City’s shelter system, and over 58,500 remain in New York City’s care. New York City’s total shelter population currently sits at 110,200 — more than double what it was when Mayor Adams took office — including longtime unhoused New Yorkers. In the past week alone, more than 2,700 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City.

Though both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported in early September that only a fraction of those aliens had been bused to NYC by the state of Texas, Adams was still then placing the blame largely on Abbott, deriding the governor as a “mad man” while complaining that the migrant surge threatened to “destroy” his city.

Days after making those statements, Adams informed NYC agency heads that they’d have to trim their budgets by 15 percent by early 2024 “to compensate for increasing asylum-seeker costs”. Politico suggested that there was more at play in the mayor’s demand, however:

The cuts, larger than any in recent history, are liable to generate outrage from city lawmakers, the institutional left and commissioners themselves — and appeared to double as a pressure campaign aimed at Albany and the federal government to help with the influx of more than 100,000 migrants since last year. [Emphasis added.]

NYC “Set to Spend Nearly $11 Billion on this Crisis Over Just FY24 and FY25”

Which brings me to NYC’s latest “Financial Plan Update”, which the mayor’s office dropped on November 16. The press release for that update states that the city’s latest fiscal plan:

was crafted in the face of significant fiscal challenges, with the city having spent $1.45 billion on the asylum seeker humanitarian crisis in FY23 and set to spend nearly $11 billion on this crisis over just FY24 and FY25 without significant and timely state and federal support . . ..

That release quotes the mayor’s chief advisor, Ingrid P. Lewis-Martin, who explains rather plainly where the blame for the city’s fiscal woes lays:

We must balance our budget in wake of the $12 billion that we project to spend as a result of the migrant crisis. Our budget has been balanced with heavy hearts. Our administration is outraged to have to implement these cuts, which are a direct result of the lack of financial support from Washington, D.C., which is derelict in its responsibility to institute a national plan to mitigate a national crisis and has instead elected to dump its job to handle this migrant crisis upon the lap of a municipality and its mayor. [Emphasis added.]

No “mad men from Texas”, no “buses”—a derelict federal government with no plan of its own playing hot potato with what are now 125,000 new migrant arrivals, half of whom are still being housed on the city’s dime.

In real-world terms, however, Adams is proposing (among other reductions) cuts to the New York Police Department’s budget, paring the number of new recruits who will be hitting the streets even as the NYPD is attempting to replace 3,000 officers who have left since 2019. Not surprisingly, Patrick Hendry, president of the Police Benevolent Association, warns: “Cutting cops puts New Yorkers at risk, period”.

A Curious Lack of Communication Between the ‘Biden of Brooklyn’ and the Man Himself

Adams’ budget cuts, public statements, dire warnings, and misdirected anger over NYC’s migrant crisis all make a certain level of sense. What doesn’t make sense is the lack of communication between a mayor who styled himself on the 2021 campaign trail as the “Biden of Brooklyn” and the original version, who now occupies the Oval Office.

In August, Politico reported that the mayor and the president hadn’t spoken at all in 2023, even as the NYC migrant crisis festered, and according to the outlet’s most recent telling, there haven’t been any exchanges between Gracie Mansion and the White House of late, either.

Some of that may be due to the fact that Biden’s FBI reportedly took away Adams’ cellphones and iPad earlier this month as part of a criminal inquiry into the mayor’s campaign activities (at issue are alleged illicit payments from the Turkish government), but you’d have assumed the mayor would have backed-up his contact list.

Communication, of course, is a two-way street, and Biden’s people presumably know where to find the mayor. Adams’ popularity has been on the decline for the better part of 2023, however, and maybe the president wants to distance himself from the mayor of America’s most populous city with the 2024 elections in the offing.

A Problem for the President with Empire State Voters

That doesn’t appear to be a winning strategy for the White House, however. Siena College polled New York voters on the migrant issue in mid-October, and the results revealed that 84 percent of them considered the migrant influx to be a “serious problem” (with well more than half, 57 percent, terming it a “very serious problem”).

As Steve Greenberg, a Siena College pollster, explained: “Seldom do we see an issue where at least 79% of Democrats, Republicans, independents, men, women, upstaters, downstaters, Blacks, whites, Latinos, Catholics, Jews, and Protestants all agree – that the migrant influx is a serious problem.”

Nearly two-thirds of the voters polled—64 percent—faulted the administration’s handling of that crisis, while just 29 percent approved of what Biden’s doing. That same percentage of respondents agreed that New York has already done enough to help the new arrivals (up from 58 percent in August polling) and are now calling for the surge to slow.

It’s unlikely that Biden will lose the solid-blue Empire State’s 28 electoral votes to his eventual GOP opponent in next November’s presidential election (Biden beat Trump there by more than 23 points in 2020), but Republicans did pick up four House seats there in the 2022 elections after a court-drawn redistricting.

State Democrats are—again not surprisingly—seeking to redraw the maps again, but if the migrant issue continues to fester, enough Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters may either stay home or cast a protest ballot to limit any potential benefits the party would accrue.

The administration’s border-release policies are driving Southwest border entries to new heights, as a federal judge concluded in March, but those policies still remain popular with Democrats nationally. Mass illegal immigration isn’t popular with anybody in New York, where its most salient effects are hitting voters the hardest, however. It’s time for Joe Biden and Eric Adams to parley before the impact of the migrant crisis hits them and their party where politicians feel it the most—at the ballot box.