A crisis, for NYC and US, with no ‘ending’: We have to do better with migrants – Kelly

New York City Mayor Eric Adams sounded an alarm bell last week about the seemingly endless flood of migrants arriving in his city. He was not greeted as a hero.

“This issue will destroy New York City,” said the mayor of a city that has long claimed to be a sanctuary for immigrants and features the Statue of Liberty in its harbor. On the statue’s base, a poem by Emma Lazarus proclaims: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Echoing against those famous lines by Lazarus, written in 1883, Adams’s warning is explosive for sure — especially considering the fact that he is a Democrat who is now pushing back against the party’s mostly pro-immigrant platform. But Adams’s claim that the influx of migrants and the pressures they place on his government “will destroy” New York was actually not his most ominous statement.  

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is shown during a press conference at Moynihan Train Station as he talks about the future of Penn Station. Thursday, June 9, 2022

As part of his remarks on migrants, delivered at a town hall-style meeting with voters, Adams added this: “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.”

Translation: The leadership of the world’s richest, most sophisticated and technologically astute nation has no credible and workable plan to control, monitor or offer help to the ever-increasing flow of some of the worlds’ poorest and most backward people who come to our borders with only the clothes and other belongings they can carry. Many also come with small children.

Worse, says Adams, there is no end point to the deluge — and therefore, no end to the problems that the city faces.

For decades, New York City — indeed, America — has claimed how much it values immigrants. But we’re now reading a breaking point. New York City is the symbolic canary in the coal mine, warning of the problems to come.

‘I don’t see an ending to this’:NYC Mayor Eric Adams calls influx of migrants a national crisis

The birth of a crisis

In 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection caught 1.7 million migrants trying to cross the southern border.  In 2022 that number jumped to 2.2 million — with federal authorities estimating another 600,000 slipped through undetected. This year, with border controls loosening somewhat, the number could easily top 3 million, experts say.

For the most part, states along the southern border — Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California — have borne the brunt of the influx.  But beginning last year, leaders in some of those states — Texas, being the most vocal — started busing migrants to northern cities that had proclaimed themselves to be pro-immigration but did little to alleviate the social and fiscal problems that southern border states faced.

Last year, more than 100,000 migrants were bused to New York City alone. 

And so a crisis was born.

It needs to be stated there that New York offers an unusual promise to migrants. A nearly 40-year-old city law guarantees housing, education and medical services to anyone who needs it. So if you’ve just arrived from Latin America and you don’t have a place to stay, New York is legally bound to put you up in a hotel or city-run shelter. If you have children, the city will provide space in its schools for them. And city-run hospitals will take care of you if you get sick.

All this, courtesy of city taxpayers.

And so the crisis blossomed even more.

Adams predicts that his city will face a bill of more than $12 billion in the next three years to provide housing, schooling and health care for the influx of migrants — or about $4 billion a year, with a prediction that the annual bill could soon exceed $5 billion.

Charlie Stile:Phil Murphy balks at NJ hosting migrants as Democrats fret about the Legislature | Stile

To put that number in perspective, consider this:  New York City’s combined budget for its fire department, its parks upkeep and its garbage removal is about $5 billion a year. Without some sort of help from the federal government — or a big time Sugar Daddy with a generous philanthropic heart — Adams said this week that he will have to trim city services, perhaps by as much as 15%.

Suddenly, New York’s long-standing, self-righteous claim to “lift my lamp beside the golden door” to those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” doesn’t seem as inviting. The new migrant crisis has brought a new reality check for American ideals. Or as Adams noted in remarks several weeks ago: “This is a national crisis that demands solutions that extend beyond our city.”

Simply raising this concern — as Adams has learned — has placed him in the target hairs of the guardians of political correctness. He’s been labeled an alarmist and anti-immigrant. And while Adams is African-American, some of questioned his racial sensitivity. A contributor to MSNBC, the uber-defender of all things progressive, even branded him a “Staten Island Republican” — code for a Rudy Giuliani clone.   

The trouble here is that Adams is absolutely correct. His city is facing a crisis. On any given night, the city is trying to provide housing to more than 100,000 people. Nearly 60,000 of them are newly arrived migrants. The rest are homeless New Yorkers who already live there.

A few weeks ago, when the city ran out of hotel rooms and beds in city-run shelters, several hundred migrants — most of them from Africa and unable to speak English — were forced to sleep on a sidewalk outside a hotel near Grand Central Station. Welcome to the “Golden Door.”

Set aside for a moment the underlying and persistent questions about the righteousness of many migrants’ claims of asylum. Also, set aside the concerns that far too many migrants simply disappear into the murky immigrant ether of American society and its underground economy and never fulfill their promise to appear in an immigration court to explain why they need asylum. In other words, they become part of a growing hidden society that includes as many as 15 million undocumented immigrants. They work “off the books” for restaurants and landscapers — or other American businesses. Some pay taxes. Some don’t.

It’s not a healthy way to run a modern nation. But let’s consider the numbers that are at the heart of Adams concerns.

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability estimated earlier this year that U.S. border officials were apprehending an average of 7,000 migrants a day during the first three months of this year. That was an increase of nearly 1,000 a day over last year’s average. About 10,000 migrants arrive by bus at the Port Authority bus terminal each month.

How can this be solved? How will NJ react?

Right to left) New York Governor Kathy Hochul, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New York City Mayor Eric Adams are shown during a press conference, at Moynihan Train Station. Thursday, June 9, 2022

No matter how you feel about immigration, the reality here is that hundreds of people who need basic services arrive in New York City each day. So far, New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy, who promotes himself as a progressive, has erected a massive symbolic “stop” sign at the border and proclaimed that he doesn’t want any migrants in his state.

Memo to Phil: What will you do when the buses stop in Trenton? Or Princeton?

Welcome to the American dilemma.

This nation has long claimed it needs to revamp its immigration system. Republicans and Democrats share the blame for this growing mess. But both parties refuse to deal with even some of the most basic reforms.

One proposed reform would allow asylum seekers to work rather than forcing them to live off the welfare rolls for up to 18 months. Another reform calls for revamping the basic rules about who can claim asylum.

Originally, America’s asylum system was set up to care for war refugees and those persecuted for their political and religious beliefs. Now most so-called “asylum seekers” are trying to escape low salaries in Third World economies and gang-related crime.

Adams, now with the help of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, is trying to push another Democrat — President Joe Biden — for help. But with a presidential election looming next year, don’t expect a major breakthrough on immigration reform.

So for now, the buses arrive.

And the rest of us watch the huddled masses arrive.

Yes, we frown. We wring our hands. Maybe we even wish things would change. 

But this is going to take time. It may even get worse. As Eric Adams predicts, no end is in sight — yet.

Mike Kelly is an award-winning columnist for NorthJersey.com, part of the USA TODAY Network, as well as the author of three critically acclaimed non-fiction books and a podcast and documentary film producer. To get unlimited access to his insightful thoughts on how we live life in the Northeast, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: kellym@northjersey.com

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