This column has written previously about the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. When confronted with more than 2 million illegal border-crossers overwhelming U.S. authorities on the border last year -- and 250,000 more crossers last month indicates the figure will be even higher this year -- Republicans want to find a way to stop, or dramatically reduce, the flow. Democrats want to accommodate it.
That is not an exaggeration, and it is not an oversimplification. Just read what President Joe Biden said last week in Mexico City after his summit with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "We cannot wall ourselves off from shared problems," Biden said, taking a veiled swipe at the infinitely more effective border policies of his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
"People ... have to make it through jungles and a long journey to the border. And many are victimized, not only in terms of what they have to pay but victimized physically in other ways. And so, we're trying to make it easier for people to get here, opening up the capacity to get here, but not have them go through that god-awful process."
"We're trying to make it easier for people to get here." Could the president have made his position any clearer? Indeed, Biden's appointees at the Department of Homeland Security have created a new way -- an app called "CBP One" -- in which would-be illegal crossers can make an appointment to cross into the United States and have U.S. officials waiting to wave them through. "We're trying to ... incentivize a safe and orderly way" to cross into the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said recently, "and cut out the smuggling organizations."
Biden spoke after a four-hour visit to El Paso for which federal and local officials cleaned up the city's streets, where thousands of illegal crossers have slept in freezing temperatures, so the president would not have to witness the unpleasant results of his policy. But a week or so after Biden came through, another top Democratic official, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, visited El Paso and got a look at what is going on every day.
Adams met with a group of illegal border-crossers and told them he wants the government to make work permits more quickly available to them. On the other hand, he made it clear he did not want them to work in New York.
"There is no room in New York," Adams said. "New York cannot take more. We can't. No city deserves what is happening." To date, New York has received about 40,000 migrants, coming in buses mostly from Texas and Colorado, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis have adopted policies of sending some migrants elsewhere in the country. Oscar Leeser, El Paso's Democratic mayor and Adams' host, has also sent migrants to New York.
Adams' statement that "there is no room in New York" stood in stark contrast to the city's policy as a sanctuary for immigrants, illegal or legal. The city prides itself on welcoming and providing support to immigrants without regard to their legal status. During the Trump presidency, in particular, New York officials sometimes heaped praise upon themselves for defying Trump's efforts to enforce the nation's immigration laws.
Adams was part of that. In April 2019, when he was the borough president of Brooklyn, he tweeted: "Make no mistake, New York City will ALWAYS stand up to Donald Trump and call out his cynical plots to divide our country. To anyone in the world fleeing hatred and oppression, the ultimate city of immigrants wants you to remember: You're ALWAYS welcome here."
That was then. Now, after bearing a tiny fraction of the burden illegal crossers impose on border cities and towns, Mayor Adams says, "There is no room in New York. New York cannot take more."
What about all those noble-sounding words about sanctuary, about New York serving as a beacon to immigrants? It appears the arrival of 40,000 illegal border-crossers has done some serious damage to those deeply held principles. Reality can do that sometimes.