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America’s sanctuary cities are falling apart

Migrants to New York City camp outside of the Roosevelt Hotel. Credit: Getty

September 19, 2023 - 6:20pm

California

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.

Sanctuary cities embrace an ideal that simply cannot withstand the weight of events. Ultimately, even a pro-immigration regime needs to have rules and control of the border. Failing to do this invites more urban decay, lawlessness, a breakdown of respect for law, and financial ruin. This is an idea that needs its own sanctuary. The graveyard of stupid ideas, perhaps.


Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)

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M Doors
M Doors
8 months ago

“Ultimately, even a pro-immigration regime needs to have rules and control of the border. Failing to do this invites more urban decay, lawlessness, a breakdown of respect for law, and financial ruin.”
You don’t say ! It beggars belief that that even needs to be articulated, but such is the calibre of our political class, on both sides of the pond, that they struggle to understand such basic concepts. Or do they ?

Last edited 8 months ago by M Doors
Glyn R
Glyn R
8 months ago
Reply to  M Doors

I don’t believe they struggle at all. I believe a certain section of the political class actively want this and the chaos and distraction it sows.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Glyn R

For every immigrant that comes across the boarder a liberal should be sent the other way

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
8 months ago

Oh, please. What do you have against Mexico?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
8 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Wagner

If we had Mexico’s aggressive immigration enforcement policies in place, we wouldn’t have illegal immigrants in the hundreds of thousands. Try overstaying your visa in Mexico, and see how long it takes them to track you down and force you to bribe them, pay a fine or be thrown out of the country.

Mexico lets illegal immigrants travel through, but not stay.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Wagner

I could have meant Canada

Terry M
Terry M
8 months ago
Reply to  Glyn R

I doubt they want the chaos. But they will ignore any ill effects as long as they feel good about themselves and can advertise that on Facebook etc.
It is all performative virtue.

Last edited 8 months ago by Terry M
james elliott
james elliott
8 months ago
Reply to  Glyn R

Agreed.

Personally I have always thought that the main reason the Far Left *consistently* support policies which foment poverty and chaos – unlimited immigration, massive support for paedophilia and every measure imaginable to break up the nuclear family – is that they imagine that if things get far enough out of control people will ultimately accept a dictatorship.

Many times in history, from impoverished African and Islamic states to ancient Rome, this has indeed proved to work. Mao did it. Lenin did it. Hitler did it. All three of those last examples being Socialist.

In short, the Far Left aim to destroy society in order to take over.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago
Reply to  M Doors

Democrats are following communist playbook.

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago

NetZero, positive discrimination, diversity-equity-inclusion, “immigrants welcome here”, queer theory…
Perhaps the ordinary citizens of the West’s developed nations will finally realise what a very high price they are going to pay for those fine ideals and ‘virtues’ that have been forced upon them by determined activists. 
Is there any way to turn this situation around? It would take a whole new, very serious, very determined and well orgainised political movement. Yet the silent majority are essentially Left-liberal and too fond of the quiet life to counter the activists in any meaningful way.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

A sad and disheartening summary but, I suspect, accurate. Which is probably why commentators such as Mr. Kotkin expend much ink describing society’s problems but are relatively silent when it comes to solutions. The prospect of creating “a whole new, very serious, very determined and well orgainised political movement” is daunting.

James S.
James S.
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Mr. Kotkin is like a lot of well-heeled Democrats, who can decry the fruits of years of destructive policies in Blue cities and states, yet are unable or unwilling to look in the mirror and acknowledge that their party has largely brought this mess about. Chicago, New York, SF, LA, Portland, Seattle…all Blue bubbles, all increasingly dysfunctional.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

My enemies enemy is my friend. The solution is to vote Republican in the US. However, identity voting prevents that kind of change. If your identity says you vote Democrat, then you continue to vote Democtrat, regardless of how badly the Democrats running your local government do.

In Chicago, black voters voted for the black candidate, even though Vallas, the white guy, would have made a much better mayor. Vallas was always publicly a Democrat. The teachers union, who disliked his budgets when he was school superintendent, lead his critics in calling Vallas a closet Republican, absolutely poison in Chicago. Identity voting did the rest.

C Yonge
C Yonge
8 months ago

I think this is key. It’s like with Bill Maher. He sees a lot of the insanity on the left, but he still hangs on to the democrat label no matter what. It’s a mob mentality compounded by TDS.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Overnight? No. The US being a Federal Republic has some tools to shield citizens from globalist overreach. Some States simply don’t comply with unconstitutional central planning orders. I realize many Brits are down on Brexit but Brexit was NOT a mistake. Britain regained a ton of autonomy by leaving the EU.

I don’t quite understand the relationship between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but having semi-autonomous regions should create some opportunity for freedom to flourish.

Freedom will spread when countries can isolate this strain of Romantic idealism into regions. Once isolated, people should demand Progressives manage what they set into motion without acquiesing to their calls for “crisis funding.”

N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

The crucial part of what you say is “people should demand”. Yes they should but they don’t – and they really don’t have an effective means to make demands. 
Democracy?! We are presented with an uninspiring array of self-interested political hacks and voter-despising ideologues. Where can we go?

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

That depends on which State you live in. For instance; Gov. Noem of South Dakota made a point of ignoring all the expert nonsense that came out of Washington during the pandemic. And she wasn’t alone among the Red Team governors.
So while California was arresting un-masked surfers, most places had very lax enforcement of whatever mandates they dictated. This, I suspect, because the police refused to cooperate.
A patchwork of refusal like that will turn federal goals like NetZero into semi-comical flops. “There’s many a slip between fork and lip.” Fingers crossed!

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

In the uk civil disobedience is quietly being normalised (bladeunners ulez, 20mph wales). I think people are on the move.

William Cameron
William Cameron
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Since when was Queer a theory ?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
8 months ago

When it became trans and said men could get pregnant. In the US, the Miranda Warning has been revised because of this rash of male pregnancies.

“You have the right to an abortion. If you can’t afford your abortion, one will be provided for you. ”

No other Constitutional rights are needed, according to DEI experts.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

I find it kinda funny that there have been SIX MILLION illegals crossing the southern border over the last two years.

Of that, 134,000 have ended up in NYC. That is 3% of the total.

NYC has 3% of the US population.

Seems proportionate to me.

Even fewer illegals have gone to Chicago and LA.

But all 3 of these cities are losing their minds over this despite being sanctuary cities.

But do they ever bother to ask where the other 95% of that SIX MILLION end up?

They sure did not care when it was just the crazy racists in the border states complaining.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
8 months ago

It is darkly comic.
The decision makers, with no skin in the game, get to make decisions that impact on ordinary working class people.
How long will working people put up with these virtue signaling buffoons?!

Last edited 8 months ago by Dylan Blackhurst
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago

What can we do? At least in the US there’s some possibility of change. In the UK we have a first-past-the-post electoral system and two parties that are both entirely controlled from Davos. We’re screwed, basically.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Having a tough day, Hughie?

Gorka Sillero
Gorka Sillero
8 months ago

How’s life with among your dinghy albanian brothers? Pretty good I suppose?

0 0
0 0
8 months ago

“No skin in the game” being the operative phrase.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
8 months ago
Reply to  0 0

.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dylan Blackhurst
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

If it were not so tragic, it would be funny.
Don’t worry; it’s still pretty funny.

Waffles
Waffles
8 months ago

The perfect woke solution: All New York City needs to do is identify as a successful, peaceful city.

Anyone who points out reality can then be arrested for “miss-citying”.

William Fulton
William Fulton
8 months ago

So when reality collides with the Progressive model, the Progressives reject reality. Every time.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

The irony is delicious.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

You can say that again.

Terry M
Terry M
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Schadenfreude is addictive.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
8 months ago

Just as COVID policies were eerily similar across the world, we see simultaneous failure to enforce borders in the US, the UK and the EU.
It’s hard to put this down to incompetence.
The people in power are intent on transforming our societies, even at great cost. We must ask why.

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Post-modernists abhor nation states and their associated borders. Witness the policy of free movement of peoples within the EU. The phenomenon of admitting vast numbers of migrants (mostly illegal) into the EU was spearheaded by Angela Merkel and replicated by ‘progressive’ politicians and civil servants there as well as in countries like the UK, USA and Canada.
I suspect that a massive influence on woke policy development generally, and ‘free’ migration in particular, is driven by senior civil servants (the ‘Blob’) and politicians of that generation who have been fully indoctrinated at university where students are no longer challenged to develop critical thinking skills, but are be told what to believe; not how to learn. The long march through the institutions has achieved one important goal – the ideological capture of a generation. The next goal will be to destroy the existing order, of which nation states and their borders are a key element , along with the destruction of the nuclear family and its replacement with state management of child development and nurture. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley must be chortling in their graves!

Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Why?
Once you are a billionaire, the pursuit of money is over. What is left? The pursuit of power. “A boot stamping on a human face forever,” as Orwell put it.
Make all the world into dependent serfs by destroying capitalism, the middle class and the free markets through total systemic chaos.
Then buy up everything and give everyone UBI. It’s all as planned by Davos Man. This isn’t a joke. Dystopia has arrived, and the only question is whether we can prevent it without civil war.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

How have we arrived at a place where the ruling elite think open borders is a good idea? Nothing underscores the dysfunction of the west like this self-destructive ideology. I strongly support immigration, but my god it has to be managed. Allow some hardship cases of course, but focus on people who can be productive, not a drag on the economy.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It’s not self destructive for them. Remember they believe in demographic destiny. Let in enough people from the left wing utopias in South America and they will ensure every election goes Democrat forever. That’s the theory, at least.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
8 months ago

We are closer to 3,000,000 since Biden’s unfortunate victory. EVERY MONTH, there are 100,000 or more. In addition, Biden has come up with fake programs to admit the illegals scum with a “parole” provided they return for a hearing, likely scheduled in 2035.

Charlie Two
Charlie Two
8 months ago

‘progressive’ should be replaced by ‘gormless spoilt child with no grasp on reality’.

Eric Parker
Eric Parker
8 months ago

Non- insignificant. That might be significant.

James S.
James S.
8 months ago

Read this, and then read Cuenco’s article, and you’ll get an idea of just how schizophrenic the Democrats really are.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
8 months ago

I am glad that sanctuary cities are finally starting to feel some pain. I look forward to seeing how this plays out in November, 2024.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

Cloward Piven

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
8 months ago

“One million have crossed since Joe Biden was in office” – try 3.2 million.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago

It is objectively insane to welcome in anyone who wants to come. That is unless there is a hidden motive. Wonder why conspiracy theory abounds these days?

James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago

One day sensible people will question the cause of such migration and propose ways to encourage repair of such unsafe countries like Mexico, Syria, Iraq and Africa. Without I only see war in Europe and civil war in the USA as sufficient goads to return home. A concerted extermination of drug cartels and people trafficking would be a start.