Political compromises to address the surge of migrants to the United States can be easily identified, analysts say.
But achieving any in an election year, when the presidency and Congress is at stake? Not much chance of that, they say.
Migrants are arriving at the U.S. southern border in what officials call unprecedented numbers, spurred by upheaval and unrest in other nations. Illegal entries topped 10,000 a day for several days last month, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Texas, in particular, continues to send migrants to Democratic-led states where mayors are calling for more federal help to house them and stem the flow. New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently took administrative action to slow the bus arrivals. But all it did was trigger buses to drop passengers in New Jersey, where they took trains into New York City — which sparked, in part, Adams suing the bus companies.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Political compromises to address the surge of migrants can be identified, analysts say, but achieving any in an election year would be difficult.
- State lawmakers are limited in acting on immigration beyond providing New York City with funding to help address the issue and pressuring for federal help.
- National Republicans believe the issue will propel GOP victories this fall, and the Biden administration has been slow to respond to the surge, analysts say.
Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature have approved about $2 billion in spending, including National Guard expenses, to help the city — which, so far, has spent about $300 million of that. But beyond that and pressuring for federal help, state lawmakers are limited in acting on immigration.
“Immigration has always been considered to be a federal issue,” said Alberto M. Benitez, a professor and director of the Immigration Clinic at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.
“The U.S. government has an obligation to help New York with money for housing or for schools. States and municipalities can do a lot of things, but they don’t have the resources the federal government has,” Benitez said.
In Washington, there’s talk of a funding deal to avoid a government shutdown that would include other issues, such as Ukraine, Israel and migrant aid. But with Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson predicting immigration will propel GOP victories this fall, it’s likely the party would rather play up the issue than settle it, analysts said.
Democratic President Joe Biden, on the other hand, has been slow to address some of the issues, perhaps from a strategic desire to play it down, analysts said.
“The political obstacles right now are Republicans are convinced that, for Democrats and for the Biden administration, this is one of their biggest vulnerabilities,” said Kevin Madden, a veteran political consultant who was the spokesman for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
“Given the polarization of the issue and the fact we have the slimmest of majorities in Congress, it’s very hard to see a comprehensive solution being hammered out,” Madden said, referring to the GOP’s eight-seat margin.
Underscoring the point, Johnson and dozens of House Republicans traveled to southwest Texas on Wednesday to draw more attention to the issue and draw a hard negotiating line.
Yet a middle ground isn’t hard to envision and could include aspects that enjoy public support, said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University Law School.
It would involve a three-pronged approach that includes tighter border security to stem illegal crossings, more work visas for migrants and a path to a green card for individuals who were brought, as children, illegally into the country.
“That’s potentially doable. Public opinion is very much in favor” of all three, Yale-Loehr said. “So from a public relations perspective, you’d think Democrats and Republicans could get behind such a mini-immigration reform bill. … But even that is a stretch, given the fractures in Congress.”
Yale-Loehr said the surge of migrants would have happened no matter who is in the White House, but he does think Biden could have been more aggressive.
“I think Biden could have stepped in further at U.S.-Mexican border and say, 'Hey, this is a federal issue and it’s not up states to send them out willy-nilly wherever they want.'”
The U.S. Department of State, in a recent report, estimated “nearly 110 million people are now forcibly displaced, more than at any other time in history.” The broad causes are political unrest and persecution or fear of persecution. Unlike in the past, when Mexicans accounted for most all southern border crossings, migrants now are arriving from around Central and South America, Africa, China and India, officials say.
The United Nations estimates 2.4 million refugees are “now in need of protection through third-country resettlement.”
“For these refugees, resettlement in the United States represents the opportunity to start anew to pursue a life of safety and dignity without fear of violence or persecution,” the Department of State said.
Biden's response has been twofold: Increasing deportations while increasing paths for some to work and stay, especially Venezuelans.
Over the last 18 months, New York City says it has processed more than 150,000 migrants and is housing roughly 60,000.
In New York, state lawmakers have earmarked money for municipalities to help cover short-term housing costs for migrants and tried to begin matching up potential workers with companies interested in hiring new arrivals.
Further, Hochul has pressed the feds to speed up work authorizations for migrants, directed the state Labor Department to connecting “work-eligible asylum-seekers” with employers looking for workers and allocated millions of dollars to help migrants file paperwork to receive work authorizations.
State lawmakers also noted the Adams administration has spent just a fraction of the $2 billion in state aid previously approved for the city.
Recently, Adams enacted an order to limit bus arrivals by requiring advanced notice, which just led them to the New Jersey detour. Then, the mayor announced Thursday he’s suing Texas bus companies, seeking $708 million to cover the costs of caring for migrants.
The mayor’s claim is based on law that makes it illegal to bring a “needy person from out of state into state for the purpose of making him a public charge.”
It’s unclear if the lawsuit will succeed, but Adams is clearly trying to get more help.
Republicans have said metropolitan Democrats have touted their locales as “sanctuary cities” — especially New York, Chicago and Denver — where immigrants wouldn’t be deported, then asking for help when the surge happened.
“These sanctuary city Democrats, who opened their arms and said, ‘Come, we’ll protect you. We’ll provide for you,’ now they’re here and they don’t want it and they can’t afford it,” Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-Elmira) told Spectrum News on Wednesday.
Hochul said Thursday she’s “planning a trip to Washington again in the near future to talk about the impact on our budget.”
“I do think the state has do a real full-court press with its representatives to force Washington to do something,” said Arthur “Jerry” Kremer, a former Long Island assemblyman who now lobbies. “Because if New York starts to spend a lot of taxpayers’ money, the federal government might say, ‘Great, we don’t have to get involved.’”
With wire services