LOWRY/Illegal immigration failure
The public intellectual Irving Kristol famously said that the definition of a neoconservative is “a liberal who has been mugged by reality.”
By the same token, the definition of a convert to immigration restrictionism is a big-city mayor dealing with a surge of illegal immigration in his city.
In his desperate pleas for federal help to deal with about 100,000 migrants who have come to New York City since the spring of 2022, Mayor Eric Adams is vindicating the hawkish position on immigration with almost every utterance.
All that it has taken to explode the lazy cliches that have defined the progressive position on the issue is a heavy flow of illegal immigration.
If immigration is an unalloyed good, this influx should be a boon to New York City and its future. Why stop at 100,000 if the city could have 200,000, or 300,000? If immigration has no cost, why is New York spending $5 billion this year absorbing this flow?
According to Adams, New York City “is being destroyed by the migrant crisis.”
There you have it — immigration, in and of itself, has the power to bring a great city to its knees.
Long gone are the days when Adams pledged during his campaign to “lift up immigrants as high as Lady Liberty lifts her torch in our harbor, as a beacon of hope for all who come to our shores.” Now, he sounds a lot like Donald Trump, or a late Roman emperor getting undone by an influx of Vandals and Goths.
New York has been actively discouraging immigrants, or, to use the progressive line, “slamming the door on new migrants.” Flyers distributed by the city at the border say, “Housing in NYC is very expensive,” and no one can say that isn’t truth in advertising. “Please consider,” the message pleads, “another city as you make your decision about where to settle in the U.S.”
In other words, why not try Philadelphia?
What Adams is learning is that the key questions when it comes to immigration are: how many, from where, with what skills, and what will they do once here.
The fact is — as border areas already realized — low-skilled migrants with few connections in the community showing up en masse constitutes an intolerable fiscal and social burden.
It is true that there are unique circumstances at play for Adams. Asylum seekers can’t work until their applications have been considered for six months; New York City has a right-to-shelter law that has added to the expense.
If asylum seekers, many of whom are making bogus claims, were instantly handed work permits, though, it’d be another incentive for illegal immigration. And even places without New York’s shelter laws are strained by the arrival of the Biden-era illegal immigrants and have been declaring states of emergency.
The wave of migrants over the last couple of years aside, immigrants to the U.S. are heavily reliant on public resources since they tend to be poor and have low levels of education. An analysis of Census Bureau data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that 58% of households in New York State headed by immigrants use at least one welfare program. Even if illegal immigrants aren’t technically eligible for some of these programs, their U.S.-born children are. And as we see in the current crisis, if people show up who need housing, medical care, and education, no one is simply going to say no.
To his credit, Mayor Adams has been focusing more attention on the federal failures at the border, but a key component of the Adams immigration plan was blocking federal enforcement.
Now, immigration enforcement by the feds isn’t such a bad thing. What New York City is seeking, after all the rote invocations of the Statue of Liberty, is fewer migrants competing with people already living in the city for resources and attention.
That really shouldn’t be too much to ask. Welcome to reality, Mayor Adams.
Rich Lowery is editor of National Review, a leading conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley.