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In a sanctuary city, the creation of a crisis


Since President Joe Biden took office, over five million undocumented immigrants have entered the country illegally.

Sanctuary cities are municipalities that go out of their way to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation or prosecution for illegally entering the country.

New York City took its first steps toward becoming a sanctuary city in 1989 when then-Mayor Edward Koch issued Executive Order No. 124, which restricted local law enforcement from transmitting previously permissible information regarding undocumented immigrants in New York City to the federal government, while simultaneously ordering city agencies to make all city services available to undocumented immigrants, specifically education.

At the time there were far fewer undocumented immigrants in the city compared to today. In 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio made it official when he declared New York a sanctuary city and opened the proverbial floodgates. It is estimated that over 100,000 have come to New York City just since last spring and approximately 18,000 of them are children who need to be placed in public schools over the next few weeks.

Mayor Eric Adams blasted Texas Governor Greg Abbott as being morally bankrupt for busing undocumented migrants to New York City despite the fact that he often greets them personally. Abbott countered that the mayor should direct his anger at Biden, who has refused to take steps to rein in illegal immigration.

In either case, New York City is facing a crisis in which neither the city nor the state or federal governments seem able to come up with a viable solution. Housing undocumented immigrants in massive tent cities throughout the five boroughs while angering residents, kicking tourists out hotels to make rooms available for them, thereby depriving the ancillary benefits tourists bring to the city, squeezing more children with English as a second language barriers into the already overcrowded failing school system or busing undocumented immigrants to other jurisdictions where they are not wanted are not answers, although all of these options are either being considered or being put into place. 

Unless New York City has a hidden stash of cash that only Adams knows about, it cannot afford to continue to do what it is doing. President Biden appears to be tone deaf when it comes to both Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul’s desperate pleas for the president to expedite the issuance of Federal work visas. Imagine how bad the situation would be if they weren’t all in the same party.

In New York City alone, there are more than 60,000 mostly able-bodied undocumented immigrants languishing in tent cities or sitting idle on city sidewalks waiting for the federal government to grant work visas so that they can move forward with their lives. Unfortunately, under federal law, none of them are eligible for work permits and therefore cannot legally work, while throughout the city, storefronts advertise job openings that go begging.

New York City has never let the federal government interfere with its agenda, except of course when it goes against the police. Rather than wait for the federal government to issue work visas, city officials should develop a work visa program for undocumented immigrants similar to the Work Experience Program it set up in the 1990s to allow welfare recipients to work in order to maintain their public benefits. 

Start with those undocumented immigrants who actually want to work and further incentivize the program by giving them priority when the federal government eventually caves in (which it must) and is forced to issue work visas as a last resort. Meanwhile, the undocumented immigrants will learn firsthand how much of their earnings go to pay taxes in this country. It might be an incentive for some to return home.


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