Sanctuary cities are bubbling as illegal immigrants actually arrive
The surest sign that public policies are nothing but signals of virtue is when the messages cost nothing. The easiest way to tell when that signal is starting to fail is to watch politicians flounder as costs start to rise and voters demand relief.
It was gratuitous – and meaningless – for progressive churches to display banners calling themselves “nuclear weapon free zones” during the Reagan era. Their declining congregations loved him. He was free, after the murder of George Floyd, to post awakened catechism signs on your lawn, proclaiming “In this house we believe: Black Lives Matter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal” and so on. Maybe the neighbors patted you on the wrist. And for years it’s been free for deep blue towns to proclaim themselves “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants. That changes now that voters want a sanctuary for themselves.
Changes like this happen when voters realize that old virtue signals actually come with significant costs and they will have to pay for them. This is exactly what is happening in New York and Washington DC now that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is sending a few busloads of illegal immigrants from his state to those cities.
These progressive strongholds were silent as the Biden administration ferried planes loaded with illegal immigrants to suburban airports in the middle of the night. Television coverage was banned and arrivals were secretly dispersed. Abbott’s buses, on the other hand, arrive downtown greeted by local TV crews. Now you can hear the politicians screaming.
These shrill noises are the sound of progressive politicians in a hurry. They proclaim their cities to be “sanctuaries” but, surprise, surprise, they don’t really want more illegal immigrants. Not that they can express that reservation, of course, given their militant political base. Nor can they support serious efforts to deal with the underlying problem by closing the border, or even trying to do so. It would mean a humiliating return to Donald Trump’s tough policies: building the wall, forcing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their claims are processed, and encouraging Mexican armed forces to deploy along the border to prevent crossings. illegal. Biden reversed all of those policies, to cheers from his party’s left-wing base. That’s when they thought it wouldn’t cost anything.
Now the costs are mounting, and so are the consequences for progressive politicians. The decline comes, not from their base, but from disillusioned centrists and independents. These voters are groaning under the costs associated with this rising tide of illegal immigrants, including social benefits, social services, sending more children to school, emergency room visits for uninsured patients, and the need for additional police without sufficient additional tax revenue to pay for all of them. Drug trafficking cartels now find it much easier to cross the border, so these towns also have to deal with more heroin, cocaine and fentanyl on the streets, more hospitalizations and more overdose deaths. . It’s an ugly picture.
Abbott’s goal is to tighten the noose on these politicians, force them to change course on national immigration policy and reduce the flow of immigrants to his state – or else pay the price. in their state of origin.
The buses are a political stunt, of course, but very clever. Abbott is running for re-election and he is visibly showing his support for the beleaguered cities and counties of Texas. He puts his Liberal Democrat opponent, Beto O’Rourke, in an awkward position. O’Rourke specializes in showy, high-profile gestures, but has no plan to alleviate the migrant problem. Finally, Abbott hopes to force the hand of National Democrats, who don’t care one iota of the social, financial and law enforcement burdens facing his state, but care about immigrants arriving in Manhattan or DC. .
How will we know if Abbott opened the eyes of progressives to the problem? We won’t until progressive mayors and governors start openly asking the Biden administration to stop the flow, not at city bus terminals but at the southern border. So far they haven’t. They complain about Governor Abbott, not President Biden, and begin to go after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Vice President Kamala Harris, the “border czar” who refuses the crown.
Mayorkas and Harris may be unhappy, but they didn’t create this fiasco. Joe Biden did. For Democrats worried about illegal immigration (and their re-election), the crucial moment will only come when they turn on the President himself, say the quiet part out loud, and demand that he take real action. against illegal immigration.
When they reach this turning point, pressure will mount within the Democratic Party for radically different policies. It will not be easy to change the minds of party leaders, as their record shows. They wouldn’t when fentanyl deaths spiked in Ohio, West Virginia and New Hampshire. They wouldn’t when communities near the southern border were overwhelmed and begged Washington for help. But unload a few immigrant buses in the heart of Democratic cities, and the politicians go into paroxysms.
The question now is whether those Democratic lawmakers will finally direct their anger at the president, and whether Biden will hide and cover or respond with more effective policies. The costs are mounting, the political damage is mounting, and Greg Abbott continues to try to get their attention.
Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he founded the program in International Politics, Economics, and Security. He can be reached at [email protected]
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.