If it were not so tragic, it would be funny. For years the progressive Left — in the US as well as across the West — has boasted about its willingness to accept people even if they have arrived in America illegally. With over one million having crossed the border illegally since Joe Biden took office — and their numbers are rising — the facade of the sanctuary city is falling apart.
Border chaos is now sparking a war among Democrats, with some, like New York Mayor Eric Adams, suggesting the migrant wave may “destroy” the city. His critique has been repeated by much of the border state Arizona Democratic delegation, as well as Independent Senator Kristen Sinema. But if sensible Democrats know the game is up and want to stop the flow, others, like Chicago’s ultra-progressive Mayor Brandon Johnson and Leftist members of the New York City Council, denounce Adams and others as xenophobic acolytes who are mouthing “repugnant Maga garbage”.
Yet the collapse of the sanctuary city is not the product of far-Right manipulation, although it certainly warms the cockles of reactionary hearts. Nor is it primarily caused by shipments of migrants from what some may see as the quasi-fascist republics of Texas and Florida. The vast majority of refugees, as even the New York Times admits, go to New York on their own.
The simple truth is this. If allowed to come and stay, irrespective of legal status, refugees will keep coming. Most of them are seeking a better life, but there is also a non-insignificant presence of criminal elements — notably the Mexican cartels — to flood cities with drugs and human traffickers, too. These often poorly educated, desperate people are also arriving at a time when urban economies around the West are sluggish, and fiscal resources are drying up.
Critically, much of the new opposition to sanctuary cities comes from minority populations that now must compete with migrants for space, medical services, and schools. In New York, Mayor Adams listens to such complaints from his core base of working-class African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans. But in Chicago, Johnson is proving himself a stalwart comrade despite widespread resentment of refugees in many neighbourhoods, including black ones.
Even sensible progressives should acknowledge that it may prove impossible to fund the migrants and still keep up their dreams of a European-style elaborate welfare state. New York City is already contemplating major budget cuts, and it’s hard to believe that hard-hit West Coast cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, can afford more indigents when they already struggle with a large, and seemingly immovable, homeless population on their streets.
California currently suffers from the nation’s highest poverty rate as well as the widest gap between middle- and upper-middle income earners of any state. Its citizens already confront a state with crime, disorder, homelessness and an education system in tatters. Adding hundreds of thousands of poorly educated non-English speakers may not be the salve these school districts need.
Unfortunately, several Democratic leaders do not seem to recognise the scale of the problem. California’s Gavin Newsom is now considering “right to shelter” legislation similar to that which has lured migrants to places like New York. In addition, the state seems determined to provide the undocumented with ever more benefits, offering free healthcare, non-enforcement of immigration and free college for their kids. The high housing prices might keep them away, but instead they get Government-subsidised housing.
Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.
Photo: screenshot from KTLA news on YouTube.