The issue of immigrant surges in blue cities and states far from the U.S. southern border threatens to upend President Joe Biden’s relationships with Democratic leaders ahead of what looks to be a close 2024 reelection battle.
Republican politicians have continuously maintained that “every state is a border state” in reference to the spread of problems related to illegal immigration. Now, Democratic leaders across the country appear to be in agreement on this, even if they stop short of blaming Biden’s policies.
In an announcement Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) revealed that Texas has bused more than 50,000 immigrants to “sanctuary” destinations across the country. This includes roughly 12,500 immigrants to Washington, D.C., 18,500 immigrants to New York City, 13,500 immigrants to Chicago, 3,200 immigrants to Philadelphia, 3,200 immigrants to Denver, and 940 immigrants to Los Angeles.
According to Democratic strategist Douglas Wilson, these rising immigration problems in blue cities and states could be a threat in 2024. “I think the president needs to adhere to the concerns of the mayor of New York City, the governor of Illinois, and other blue states because, one, you want to make sure that turnout is high in those areas. We all know New York is not going to go Republican, but you don’t want New York City residents in the boroughs, in particular the black community, not to turn out because they’re upset with the president with more migrants in New York,” he said
He further noted, “Chicago is the home of the DNC convention” in 2024. “What you don’t want is having a migrant problem next summer with migrants around the convention center,” he explained, pointing to the optics of it.
Wilson claimed Republicans would likely use that image in their campaigns in critical swing states.
In a letter Friday, Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) became the latest Democrat to call on Biden’s White House to do more. He told Massachusetts state Sen. Marc Pacheco he is encouraging “the Biden administration to send officials to the Commonwealth to assess the need for additional federal support.”
The White House did not provide comment to the Washington Examiner regarding Auchincloss’s request.
In an interview, the congressman told the Washington Examiner, “We’ve encouraged the White House to put boots on the ground in Massachusetts, that senior administration officials from the inner agency can see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears from their counterparts at the state level the urgency and severity of the issue in the Bay State. It’s a lubricant and a catalyst for action when you have people actually on the ground in this state.”
His call coincides with New York City Mayor Eric Adams’s four-day excursion in central and southern America to witness firsthand the path that immigrants take to the United States’s southern border. Since 2022, New York has become inundated by arriving illegal immigrants, many of whom were sent on buses from Texas.
Adams isn’t the only mayor taking such a trip. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, whose city is also facing a surge of immigrants being bused in, recently announced his plan to visit the southern border. “We need to go assess the situation, just like our team has gone to D.C. We need better coordination, quite frankly,” the mayor said. “I recognize what our southern states are dealing with so going to see it firsthand.”
It’s relatively unusual for Northern city mayors, in particular, to prioritize an issue that is largely left to the federal government and those of border states. But, with the spread of immigrants in the U.S. being specifically routed to “sanctuary” cities and states run by Democrats, leaders are forced to address it.
Biden is now faced with requests from states such as New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois, to name a few, for additional federal assistance to deal with the significant number of immigrant arrivals which are straining city and state resources. The administration, though, has maintained that it has already given Chicago, for example, over $46 million in grant funding meant to assist with the influx of immigrants.
The Biden administration’s lack of additional action on the issue to the satisfaction of leaders in cities and states across the country has led to reports of souring relationships between himself and prominent Democrats. According to recent reports, Adams and Biden are no longer on speaking terms amid the issue. Further, during a recent call with White House officials, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) and Johnson, the Illinois Democrats demanded more assistance from the federal government. But, rather than promising federal help, the officials urged the leaders to instead seek implementation of programs to urge the city to implement programs to expedite getting work permits approved for immigrants.
Following the call, Pritzker penned a letter to Biden asking him to respond to the issue and initiate a coordinated response at the border.
“President Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform since his first day in office,” a White House spokesperson said afterward. He reiterated that the onus is on Congress to address the issue.
Democratic strategist Brad Bannon isn’t convinced it will be all that important to Biden’s prospects.
“In terms of the presidential race, it probably isn’t much of a factor,” he said. “Now, if it becomes a factor in places like Atlanta or Phoenix, given the shaky nature of those politically, Georgia and Arizona, it could become a problem for the president in winning those states back in 2024.”
“But it could fester and become a big problem if the president doesn’t take strong action to help these mayors out,” he added.
The Biden reelection campaign didn’t provide comment to the Washington Examiner as to whether it was working to address deteriorating relationships with Democratic leaders in these particular areas.
Auchincloss contributed that there will be an array of issues on voters’ minds in 2024. But immigration, he said, is certainly one of them. “I think cost of living, immigration, and the health of our democracy are likely to be three of the most salient issues for voters,” he said.
The congressman further defended the Biden administration from taking full responsibility for the immigration issue, agreeing that “Congress owns the immigration problem.” He further advocated a bipartisan immigration reform bill led by Reps. María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX), explaining that it is a starting point for addressing the issue.
According to Wilson, one way Biden could make progress on this immigration issue, thereby helping out these cities and states, is by tying “border funding to Ukraine funding.”
“By doing that, he is showing the Republicans in the House, ‘OK. I want to do something about the border. Where can you meet me halfway on Ukraine?’ So that causes a discussion on Capitol Hill. That could go into president’s favor because he’s showing that he is trying to meet Republicans halfway,” he explained.
Another path forward for Biden, said Bannon, could lie in work permitting for immigrants. There is a level of agreement between city and state Democratic leaders, the White House, and federal lawmakers that expediting work permits for immigrants could alleviate some of the issues related to the surge of immigration. And while the White House has taken some steps to give some immigrants from Venezuela temporary legal status for this purpose, doing this on a larger scale could benefit him in the long run, Bannon added.
As to why a larger step hasn’t been taken by Biden, he guessed it “probably would cause some political blowback from Republicans” who might frame any action as giving jobs away to illegal immigrants.
He added, “It may get the president some political flack in the short run but help them in the long run” if it provides significant relief to affected areas and improves a looming worker shortage.