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New York City (NYC) is struggling to deal with the onslaught of illegal migrants. Democratic Mayor Adams is openly calling on the White House to solve the crisis at the US southern border. Other sanctuary cities, not to mention the border towns, are facing similar problems. The Biden administration has announced its willingness to back new hardline immigration policy changes if it is part of Biden’s emergency funding request of roughly USD 100 billion for military aid to Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine.

Daniella Vanova, 27 December 2023

Since the spring of 2022, more than 150 000 migrants have arrived in NYC. Currently, it is receiving more than 4000 migrants each week. Democratic Mayor Adams has taken drastic measures regrading this influx and has tried to steer migrants away from the Big Apple. With little to no room in shelters, and a thirty-day stay limit for new migrants in local shelters, Adams has imposed a more aggressive policy to alleviate the migrant crisis and by offering a one-way plane ticket out of the city. Mayor Adams has called this migrant influx a humanitarian crisis.

New York City Hall spokesperson, Kayla Mamelak, issued the following statement: “With no sign of a decompression strategy in the near future, we have established a reticketing center for migrants.”  One-way plane tickets, even international ones with destinations as far as Colombia and Morocco are cheaper than the cumulative daily, pro-migrant cost that has risen from $363 to $394. Many fellow Democrats have criticized Adams’ approach, including Democratic NY Governor Hochul. Adams has warned those illegal migrants who decide to remain in New York that they may be faced with winter temperatures with no place to go. Adams told reporters: “When you are out of room, that means you’re out of room.”

Mayor Adam has spent the past months travelling to DC over 10 times trying to convince President Biden to change his migration policy which has put NYC in this predicament. The city has been at odds with the Biden administration and its mismanagement of the US southern border and the migrant crisis there, which includes a large amount illegal migration.

The cost to feed and house incoming migrants in NYC will amount to c. USD 5 billion. If the amount of migrants entering New York City remains the same, the next three years will cost the city about USD 12 billion.  Mayor Adams made clear that NCY is running out of resources to house and care for the waves of illegal migrants.

As of October 2023, more than 64 400 migrants were staying in city homeless shelters, which makes up over half of the available places in shelters for the entire city. With such a large amount of people needing a roof over their heads, Adams is considered housing migrants even on cruise ships. Despite many warnings from NYC, migrants en route still reaffirm that they would continue their journey towards the United States and NYC specifically.

Venezuela, a country of 29 million, had an exodus of more than seven million migrants, most of whom entered the US illegally. Venezuela has been devastated by US sanctions. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, this exodus has been the second largest external displacement crisis in the world.

With immigration cases taking upwards of three years before a final decision is reached, this crisis will remain with NYC for many years. According to the New York Times, immigration courts in New York state had a backlog of 180 000 cases, not including the 21 000 new migrants who descended on the city over the summer of 2023. Only 88 judges preside over these immigration cases in NYC.

Another sanctuary city, Chicago, is also facing a humanitarian crisis with the large number of migrants which have flocked to the Windy City. In September 2023, President Biden announced deportation protections and work permits for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who entered the country illegally. In the past year, Chicago has seen an influx of upward of 22 000 migrants. Thousands of immigrants marched in Washington, D.C. in November 2023, calling on President Biden to issue work permits for the additional millions of undocumented migrants in the country. This also applies to the c. 270 000 illegal migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who entered the US as of October 2023.

The Chicago Tribune reported on 12 November 2023 that many Venezuelan migrants in Chicago are voluntarily returning to Venezuela, looking for warmer weather over the winter months. Migrants returning home said their decision was also based on a lack of social services and benefits provided by the city of Chicago.

Biden’s approval ratings are at an all-time low and this is also due to his open border policies. Immigration is the second most important issue going into the US presidential election of 2024. A new poll found that nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers blame President Biden for the migrant crisis and over half agree that it will destroy NYC.  On 24 October, a statistic from Siena College indicated that 64% of New Yorkers are not satisfied with President Biden’s efforts to address the recent surge of migrants in the state. This disapproval extends to 48% of Democrats, 91% of Republicans and 72% of Independents who criticize Biden’s handling of the situation.

In a White House press conference on 12 December 2023, Biden stated that he is “working with Senate Democrats and Republicans to try to find a bipartisan compromise, both in terms of changes in policy and [to] provide the resources we need to secure the border.” The White House informed Senate Democrats of its new hardline immigration policy as part of a USD 100 billion package to fund military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The new Biden immigration policy supports giving US border officials the authority to summarily expel migrants without processing their asylum claims. If passed, this measure would effectively revive the Trump-era Title 42 pandemic order which allows officials to pause asylum law, without a public health justification. Moreover, the administration would support a nationwide expansion of a process known as expedited removal that allows immigration officials to deport migrants without a court hearing under certain circumstances, also allowing for their detention while proceedings are being adjudicated.

Although the White House has not signed off on any particular policy proposals or final agreements, the President is open to compromise with House Republicans in order to push through his significant military aid package to Israel and Ukraine.

Picture: 2 August 2023, New York, New York, USA: Migrants from various countries wait in line to seek shelter at the Roosevelt Hotel. A total of 93,200 migrants have arrived in New York City since the spring of 2022. © MAGO / ZUMA Wire
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