The BorderLine is a weekly Daily Signal feature examining everything from the unprecedented illegal immigration crisis at the border to immigration’s impact on cities and states throughout the land. We will also shed light on other critical border-related issues like human trafficking, drug smuggling, terrorism, and more.
“Will we have enough unicorn poop to pay for it, or should I rub my magic lamp?” So asked a New York City Council member about the city’s never-ending cost to shelter illegal immigrants.
“All politics is local” goes the old saying popularized by Tip O’Neill, the departed congressman and speaker of the House of Representatives.
Indeed, we are seeing the downstream consequences of President Joe Biden’s dereliction of duty at the southern border play out at the state and local level. Costs rise, resources run dry, and local tempers flare.
Most Americans are too busy working to keep ahead of inflation to care much about politics. But take their parking lots, school gyms, national parks, airports—and even nursing homes with veterans living in them—away to house illegal aliens in furtherance of an insane agenda, and they get annoyed.
The net costs and benefits of legal immigration over the long term are complex to calculate. But it’s clear that in the short term, the costs exceed benefits, and that the fiscal burden of illegal immigration—versus legal—is huge.
Illegal aliens and their children are more likely to claim public benefits than legal immigrants or American citizens. Public education for illegal aliens and their American-born children costs nearly $80 billion a year, and 90% is paid by state and local taxes. The federal government sucks up over $23 billion in uncompensated health care for illegal immigrants, and states and localities another $18 billion.
Overall, the state and local annual costs for illegal immigration are estimated at $118 billion. States with the largest illegal populations, such as Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, are the hardest hit.
Cities across America are at their wits’ end dealing with the illegal immigration crisis.
Chicago has more than 10,000 illegal immigrants in its maxed-out homeless shelter system. It even has 400 of them sleeping in an airport shuttle terminal. Shelter for illegal immigrants cost the Windy City more than $250 million so far this year.
Washington, D.C., spent more than $55 million this year and has over 1,000 illegal aliens in its (also maxed-out) shelter system.
Massachusetts is spending $45 million a month to shelter its own “unhoused people” plus all the illegal immigrants sent up from the border, half of whom are in rented hotels.
These are just a few blue-city lowlights—the tremendous costs to cities on the border would need a whole book to describe.
But as in most things, New York City is where the scale of this crisis is greatest.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has rented hotels, used public buildings, and has now leased Floyd Bennett Field—one of the concrete jungle’s few green spaces—to accommodate these illegal aliens.
The field is located on national park land, and putting a tent city of thousands on federal land with insufficient services—depriving locals of rare space for recreation to boot—is a terrible idea. For one thing, there are only two National Park police on each shift who will now have to cover a new migrant city on their beat.
According to recent numbers, New York has taken in 126,700 new illegal aliens since spring 2022. Nearly 4,000 arrived in a single recent week. Adams has run out of places to put them.
To make space for thousands of weekly new arrivals, he has set a limit of 30 days for single adult illegal immigrants to be sheltered at city expense. (Remember, the New York shelter system provides food, housing, laundry, and sundry other benefits to people released at the border by Biden’s Department of Homeland Security who are in proceedings to deport them for being here illegally or on parole as they await the start of those proceedings.)
Adams is a Democrat and has to defer to Biden to some degree, but he is able to see reality: “The right to shelter wasn’t designed for the entire world,” he said when setting the time limit on free accommodations. New Yorkers understand.
According to a recent report, one-third of the city’s residents spend more than half their income on rent each month. With inflation rising faster than wages, things seem to be getting worse—475,000 New York households live below the federal poverty line in a city that has some of the highest property and rental prices in the country.
Queue the local political fight.
From the far Left, New York City Councilwoman Shahana Hanif, D-Brooklyn, wants to cancel Adams’ 30-day limit. She’d apparently like taxpayers to fund free housing indefinitely for single adults (as long as they aren’t New Yorkers, of course).
That’s when City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, R-Staten Island, asked about the “unicorn poop.”
“Are we passing laws for New York or Narnia, because the idea that we can shelter all migrants indefinitely is more fit for a fantasyland full of pixie dust than a city short of dollars,” he said to fellow Big Apple lawmakers.
I love New York.
Adams’ spokesman was correct when he said that “the status quo cannot continue” in New York, but he is wrong to count on “more help and resources from our state and federal partners” to make it possible to go on accepting thousands of illegal immigrants a week.
The Biden administration caused this problem and it controls the Department of the Interior, so Adams may get to build his tent city on national park land. But securing long-term funding to sustain it will require some Republican votes in Congress. And in New York, opposition will grow when people are kept off the playing fields and parks they pay for in favor of illegal immigrants they didn’t invite.
The New York Fire Department recently ordered at least one of Adams’ makeshift shelters on Staten Island to close, and it is looking at others. No doubt its safety assessment is accurate, but the rapidity of the investigation might be due to the strong local opposition to sheltering hundreds of bored young men with unknown pasts.
The truth is, there will never be enough federal land, or taxpayer dollars, to compensate cities and states for the costs of providing housing and welfare benefits to the number of people that will enter the U.S. illegally at will if we don’t regain control over our border and immigration.
Adams is one of several local Democratic leaders who has finally grasped this reality, though Biden and his team have deliberately chosen to ignore it.
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