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‘What constitutes a border crisis?’ Sanctuary cities have found out

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(The Center Square) – In March 2021, the Los Angeles Times published a story with a headline that asked, “What constitutes a border crisis?”

The story quoted then House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy as saying, “There is no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis.”

Then the LA Times asked, “But is it a crisis?”

Just a month later in April 2021, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement about his city being a sanctuary city.

“New York City is proud to be a welcoming and inclusive city for immigrants,” de Blasio said at the time.

The debate in the U.S. on migrants took off in April 2022 when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decided to take a stand against President Joe Biden and what Abbott called an open border policy.

Abbott stated that Biden’s repeal of Title 42 – a pandemic-era policy that allowed the government to quickly expel arriving asylum seekers – had created an “unprecedented surge of illegal aliens” into the country with as many as 18,000 apprehensions a day.

Abbott said that Texas border towns were being overrun by migrants and were overwhelmed. His solution was to bus many of the arriving migrants to sanctuary cities across the U.S.

In August 2022, when the first bus of migrants leaving Texas arrived in New York, Abbott was clear why he had his state paid for the trip. New York had a new mayor by then.

“New York City is the ideal destination for these migrants, who can receive the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has boasted about within the sanctuary city,” Abbott stated in a news release. “I hope he follows through on his promise of welcoming all migrants with open arms so that our overrun and overwhelmed border towns can find relief.”

And just over a year later, New York Gov. Kathleen Hochul was on CNN in September 2023 pleading with immigrants to “go somewhere else.”

How it has played out was not lost on liberal comedian Bill Maher.

“Could everyone just stop the posturing?” Maher said on a July 2023 podcast with Sharon Osbourne. “Don’t pretend that you love migrants so much and then when we send them to you, you don’t like them. You know? You’re full of [expletive]. And we can see that. Yeah, you liked them when it wasn’t your problem because you’re not a border state. And then when they show up in Chicago and New York, you’re like ‘What the [expletive] are we going to do with these people?’”

New York wasn’t the only destination for Abbott’s buses. He also targeted other sanctuary cities, such as Washington, D.C, Chicago and Denver.

The New York Times published an article in July 2023 that had a headline that asked, “Is Texas’ Busing Responsible for the Migrant Crisis Across Cities?”

On June 14, Abbott’s office stated that it had bused 119,200 migrants to six sanctuary cities since August 2022. That included 45,700 migrants to New York City and 36,900 migrants to Chicago since August 2022. There were also 19,200 migrants bused to Denver since May 2023 and 12,500 migrants bused to Washington D.C. since April 2022.

But Abbott wasn’t alone in busing migrants from the border to locations throughout the country. The Democratic-run city of El Paso also bused migrants north.

Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs stated in September 2023 that Arizona was “overwhelmed” by the flow of migrants into her state. Arizona spent $10.5 million transporting 10,247 migrants out of state as of September 2023.

That’s just part of a bigger surge of migrants into the U.S. Since Biden took office in January 2021, about 12 million illegal border crossings have been documented, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data and a compilation of “gotaway” data obtained from border agents by The Center Square. Gotaways is the official CBP term to describe those who illegally crossed the border between ports of entry but who were not apprehended. CBP does not publicly release “gotaway” data.

The increase in migrants has hammered the budgets of sanctuary cities.

Washington, D.C. created an Office of Migrant Services with an initial start-up cost of $10 million in 2022. In 2025, the city budgeted $39 million for that office.

Chicago has spent $299 million on migrants since 2022, according to a March 2024 report by the Illinois Policy Institute, and that does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars state taxpayers have paid for costs such as migrant health care.

New York City Mayor Adams said in August 2023 the migrant crisis may cost his city $12 billion over three years.

The city of Denver stated in April 2024 that the increase in migrants has cost it $63 million.

The cost to taxpayers in the state of Texas was $13.4 billion in 2023, according to the Federation For American Immigration Reform. Only California had a higher cost at $30.9 billion.

Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation For American Immigration Reform, said Abbott’s busing strategy has worked.

“His busing policy exposed the hypocrisy of many sanctuary jurisdiction politicians who extolled the virtues of mass immigration regardless of its legality, but are not so happy when they actually have to deal with the real impact of large numbers of migrants,” Mehlman said in an email to The Center Square. “So long as it was someone else’s problem, they were happy to virtue signal and criticize others. Once it became their problem, they demanded that Abbott and others stop sending them migrants. For years, these sanctuary proponents claimed that illegal aliens were a benefit to the country, but are now demanding federal assistance to manage to cover their costs, exposing the fact that illegal immigration imposes huge fiscal costs.”

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