(The Center Square) — Leaders of major metros around the U.S. have pushed for more progressive immigration policies in recent years by declaring themselves safe havens for illegal immigrants. Now, however, as the realities of the financial and social impacts of those policies sink in, some local leaders are thinking twice.
Millions of illegal immigrants have flowed across the southern border since President Joe Biden took office, with many seeking haven in self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities.”
“The policies of the Biden administration have certainly upped the ante on this sort of virtue signaling in recent years,” Ira Mehlman from the Federation for American Immigration Reform told The Center Square, referring to sanctuary cities. “Some 2.3 million new illegal aliens have entered the country since Biden took office, and a lot of them have wound up in these sanctuary jurisdictions, either on their own, transported by the federal government, or transported by other jurisdictions that simply cannot handle the influx.”
The Center for Immigration Studies recently published a map of sanctuary states, cities and counties. Yellow squares represent counties, red represents cities and green represents states.
Cities like New York and Chicago have dismissed concerns from border states in recent years, but now they are raising the alarm that they cannot handle the flood of migrants.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams publicly said last week the city cannot handle any more migrants. He told reporters that the city plans to pass out flyers at the southern border to discourage illegal immigrants from traveling to NYC.
As The Center Square previously reported, the Chicago City Council and Mayor Brandon Johnson heard from Chicago residents who voiced concerns about the increase in migrants and the taxpayer funds being spent to support them.
“What people are feeling is that the people who have been in these neighborhoods for generations, they have been treated inhumanely by the same government that is making efforts to provide good care to the asylum seekers,” state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, told The Center Square.
In 2020, Illinois taxpayers began to subsidize the cost of undocumented immigrant health care for those over the age of 65. In 2022, the state budget included subsidizing coverage for those over the age of 42. As part of the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget that began July 1, Gov. J.B. Pritzker modified the program to cover those only over 65 for a total budgeted amount of $550 million. The program was scaled way back because costs were ballooning to more than $1 billion.
Nearly 100,000 migrants have come to New York City this year, but that figure doesn’t compare to the total coming through at the southern border every month.
Recent U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that over 175,000 illegal immigrants came into the U.S. last month alone, and that figure is much lower than the monthly numbers from earlier this year. Experts say the figure is probably much higher, but fewer agents are available to track how many migrants are entering the U.S. between ports of entry.
In the first five months of this year, the total number of illegal immigrants coming into the U.S. via the southern border was more than the population of eight U.S. states.
Democratic mayors also pushed back when Texas Gov. Greg Abbot and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose states bear the brunt of illegal migration more than most others, started transporting migrants to other cities around the country.
Texas sees hundreds of thousands of illegal border crossers regularly but faced backlash for busing a few thousand migrants to self-proclaimed sanctuary cities like Denver, Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. over several months.
“What none of us need is more political theater and partisan gamesmanship pitting jurisdictions against each other and exacerbating this situation instead of advocating for real solutions to this challenge,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in May. “If Gov. Abbott thinks he’s going to win over allies to his cause here in Denver with this latest stunt, he’s going to be sorely mistaken. And we’re more than happy to send him the bill for any additional support we have to provide now because of his failure at managing his own state.”
Abbott sent a few thousand migrants to Washington, D.C., also a sanctuary city, last year, prompting Mayor Muriel Bowser to declare a public health emergency.
“Our ability to assist people in need at this scale is very limited,” Bowser said at the time.
Bowser lamented that the city’s homeless shelters were filling up with illegal immigrants and pushed to have the migrants end up at other final destinations.
Abbott shot back:
“D.C. is experiencing a fraction of the disastrous impact the border crisis has caused Texas,” Abbot said. “Mayor Bowser should stop attacking Texas for securing the border [and] demand Joe Biden do his job.”
Local law enforcement have felt the burden of the surge of migrants, some of whom have prior criminal records.
“The plain truth is that sanctuary city policies hobble law enforcement’s ability to protect the public from dangerous criminals,” Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, told The Center Square. “Unlike American-born offenders, authorities almost never know the true criminal histories of illegal alien offenders who previously committed crimes abroad because their home countries don’t have or don’t provide their records to American law enforcement.”
Johnson argued crime from some illegal immigrants has pushed local leaders to regret inviting the influx.
“Now, these politicians are abandoning the virtues they were so proud to signal before they realized the disaster these policies wrought,” Johnson said.
Ken Oliver, an immigration expert at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, echoed that sentiment, pointing to the financial burden on local cities that the influx of migrants creates.
“As the taxpaying citizens of sanctuary cities become increasingly aware of the costs of sanctuary policies, including the benefits of housing, food and protection from the consequences of lawbreaking that are extended to inadmissible aliens but not to them, what we’re seeing is a backlash that is growing and well justified,” Oliver told The Center Square. “That backlash and the budgetary realities facing cities and states at the receiving end of the Biden border crisis are driving a new and welcome trend. It is fitting that the unwinding of unsustainable sanctuary policies is beginning in America’s leading sanctuary enclave of New York City.”
Oliver argued the trend will continue to grow.
“That pressure to unwind sanctuary policies is not only going to continue to build throughout the country, but should also trickle up in the months and years ahead to spur the reversal of the federal policies that created the crisis in the first place,” he said.