A drastic influx of migrants to so-called “sanctuary cities” in recent months has even some of President Joe Biden’s staunchest Democrat allies growing increasingly frustrated over the administration’s open borders policies.
As Biden continues to see dismal poll numbers, one of his biggest vulnerabilities across the board is on border and immigration policy. According to a Gallup poll released late last month, just 31 percent of Americans approve of how Biden has handled the immigration crisis, while 66 percent disapprove.
Most strikingly, just 27 percent of Independents approve of Biden’s job performance on immigration, along with 62 percent of Democrats – an unusually low level of approval from within an incumbent president’s own party.
One reason for the evident Democrat frustration over Biden’s performance on immigration may be that many of them are seeing the disastrous results of his open borders policies first-hand.
In New York, for instance, which went for Biden by 23 points in 2020, a Siena College poll released on August 22 found that 82 percent of residents believe the “recent influx of migrants is a serious problem” – including 54 percent who said it was “very serious.” 46 percent of New Yorkers said migrants resettling in the Empire State over the last 20 years has been a “burden,” while just 32 percent said it has been a “benefit.”
Things have been particularly tense in New York City, long touted as a “sanctuary city” for migrants. The Big Apple is housing some 59,000 migrants per night, and is expected to enroll more than 19,000 migrant children in public schools this fall. According to a Federation for American Immigration Reform study released in March, illegal immigration is expected to cost New Yorkers more than $10 billion in 2023 alone.
The situation has created major rifts between Democrats at the state, local, and federal level. After more than two dozen counties surrounding New York City used various methods to prevent Adams from relocating migrants there, the mayor’s office sued to force those counties to house migrants at the taxpayer’s expense.
A deepening rift has also emerged between Adams and Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul, with Adams saying that Hochul is “wrong” for not forcing other areas of the state to take asylum seekers.
But Adams and Hochul have been united in their criticism of Biden for his handling of the border crisis. Last month, Hochul sent an open letter to the White House demanding more federal help, later saying, “We’ve managed thus far without substantive support from Washington.” Last October, Adams reportedly told a group of Biden aides during a White House meeting that there has been “no leadership” on immigration issues, leading to a “total breakdown” in the relationship between Biden and the mayor of the country’s largest city.
Even “Squad” leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens, has said that immigration is Biden’s “weakest issue.” Notably, Ocasio-Cortez went on to say that migrants just need work permits and refused to condemn Biden’s open borders policies. But the fact that she was willing to offer any criticism at all underscores just how much heat New York Democrats are feeling from their voters.
In Chicago, another liberal bastion, new Mayor Brandon Johnson has similarly demanded more federal help and said the city can’t support more migrant arrivals.
“Let me state this clearly: The city of Chicago cannot go on welcoming new arrivals safely and capably without significant support and immigration policy changes,” Johnson told reporters last week. According to a letter Johnson co-signed with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Chicago has spent some $250 million on housing and supplies for migrants over the past year. Democrat Alderman Raymond Lopez has also issued an open challenge to Biden to tour migrant camps in the city.
Early last month, Massachusetts Democrat Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency over the migrant crisis and urged the federal government to “pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
However, even as some elected Democrats start to experience the negative downstream effects of Biden’s handling of the border – something communities in border states have been dealing with for years – most still don’t seem to understand that the problem is with liberal immigration policy itself, not just Biden’s implementation of it.
Healey, Johnson, and Adams, for instance, have suggested that if Biden simply expedites work permits for new migrants, the crisis will suddenly resolve itself – a solution that only encourages more people to cross the border illegally and puts more strain on already overwhelmed law enforcement agencies.
Blue city mayors have also directed their frustration in part at surrounding counties for refusing to house and feed migrants – as if shifting their problem to other local leaders is somehow a responsible course of action.
If Democrats truly want to solve the migrant crisis plaguing their communities, it will take a reckoning with the inherent flaws in their own beliefs about immigration policy. It will also take direct and persistent pressure on Joe Biden and Democrats in Washington to reverse course, a prospect that thus far seems highly unlikely.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with more than a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.
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