When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent two airplanes with 50 illegal aliens to tony Martha’s Vineyard (The Massachusetts Island where the Obamas keep a summer home) last September, the reaction from left wing media and politicians was universally indignant. For all of the Democrat preening about being sanctuary states and cities, they weren’t really expecting they’d have to offer mass sanctuary to anyone. Dealing with illegals was for the rubes in border states like Texas—in forlorn border regions that liberal grandees never visit.
DeSantis had made them deal with the consequences of their own moralizing. The result: The illegals were gone in 24 hours, though their departure was heralded with a flurry of media adulation for how stunning and brave the islanders were. The Martha’s Vineyard media event marked the beginning of the death of the sanctuary city movement and the rise of the sanctimony city movement—cities that would pretend to be highly welcoming to illegals as long as they didn’t actually have to deal with the real consequences of their choices. And in the last year, New York City liberals have taken the sanctimony city to a high art. But their continuing dedication toward sanctimony is showing signs of breaking.
In Martha’s Vineyard, our elite shooed off the illegals (euphemistically referred to as “migrants” by advocates, but referred to here as illegal aliens, as virtually all of their asylum claims are bogus) because Martha’s Vineyard allegedly didn’t have the resources and institutions to help.
But New York City, increasingly the new destination for busloads of these illegals from Texas and Florida, cannot make that excuse. And the city operates under a 42 year old consent decree from a liberal activist New York Judge that obligates the city to supply shelter to whomever shows up.
The New York City illegal alien story is fascinating in that it is not just a story about failed illegal immigration policy, but about an interlinked series of leftist policy failures that have left New York worse off.
Over the last year, New York City is estimated to have “welcomed” 100,000 illegal aliens. Mayor Eric Adams, considered a moderate by NYC standards, is fed up with the influx of illegals, whom he has been housing in homeless shelters and hotels and even a senior center (whose residents held an embarrassing media protest outside the facility).
In response, Adams has now started moving illegal aliens to collar cities around NYC, the exact sorts of suburbs in places like Long Island that delivered key Congressional wins for the GOP in 2022. Former Bloomberg Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson described the immigration issue as a “ticking time bomb” for the Democrats that could cost the Democrats the House, making recapture of their lost seats impossible. In part due to tensions about Biden’s open border, Adams has not even spoken with Biden in 2023, rather remarkable given that Adams is the mayor of America’s largest and most important city, one that is more populous than all but eleven states.
Mayor Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, two erstwhile allies, are now at odds, with Hochul resisting sending illegals outside of NYC and especially worried about the possibility that a liberal judge may declare housing for illegals a statewide Constitutional right as is being pushed by groups like The Legal Aid Society. Hochul has insisted no such right exists but state Attorney General Letitia James (herself a former Legal Aid Society attorney and politically beholden to the left) has refused to defend the state’s position in this court.
Mayor Adams is attempting to save face by mounting pro-amnesty talking points. “The immigration system in this nation is broken; it has been broken for decades,” but the system isn’t broken at all. It’s the Democrats’ refusal to enforce federal laws which have caused the problem.
Over 110,000 people are in NYC’s homeless shelters alone, almost doubling the number from early 2022, more than 58,000 of them “migrants,” with more than 2,500 new migrants arriving weekly. While thousands have been shipped from red states, many more have arrived there organically.
Adams has said he expects the city to spend more than $12 billion on services for the illegal aliens over the next three years. For context that is almost as much as NYC spends on the Fire Department and Sanitation Departments combined and more than two thirds of what NYC spends on policing.
Unrestrained migration also attacks public order in the city, taking valuable hotel rooms out of commission, spurring the growth of illegal sidewalk vending and a host of other quality of life problems for residents.
New York City, already reeling from failed Covid policies and other mistakes that have seen it lead the nation in percentage outmigration since the last census, now faces a firestorm of anger from those who are left.
The city has always had dysfunctional and corrupt government, but savvy politicians like former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani realized that the people who funded the city with their taxes would put up with corruption as long as the urban amenities and quality of life were there. But New York is now losing both wealthy taxpayers and key amenities. Two fancy eateries owned by celebrity restaurateur Danny Meyer closed their stores on August 25 because they were situated on the ground floor of a Manhattan hotel now wholly occupied by illegal aliens, a move that also cost 125 jobs.
Not everyone in the Democrat establishment is clueless about the consequences. Former NY governor David Paterson has expressed his frustration with both city and national Democrats, telling an interviewer that “there does not seem to be any willingness or ability on the part of the federal government” to fix what has become an ever-worsening issue. . . The federal government just decided they are sending the people in, and we should just be happy.”
Paterson represents the large number of illegal-alien sympathetic New Yorkers who have had enough, now that they are actually having to live by their sanctuary rhetoric: “Even when you’re giving to charity, you give as much as you can, not as much as they think you should,” Paterson said.
But our fraud-ridden asylum regime, which the Democrats have encouraged, means that relief is not at hand. “I thought of New York differently, but now I also see that New York is in chaos,” told one Ecuadorian woman, age 48, who according to a journalist, came with her husband and their two-year-old son. Though the journalist did not mention it, this woman is almost certainly committing immigration fraud unless she had a child at the highly implausible age of 46. Far more likely, the child is a human deportation shield since Biden’s immigration policies have made it almost impossible to deport families.
In addressing the crisis Mayor Adams quoted former President Obama, who said of illegal aliens that “we were once strangers too.” But if an increasingly beleaguered New York cannot convince the Biden administration to close the wide-open border, increasing numbers of New Yorkers will be strangers in their own state, while being expected to foot the bill. And they will likely take out their frustrations on the Democrats at the ballot box.
Jeremy Carl is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute