How migrant buses are changing US politics

Published 2:00 pm Saturday, May 27, 2023

By Rich Lowry

“Build the wall” hasn’t been a sentiment often heard in South Side Chicago. But someone held a sign calling for the barrier, while other residents shouted “Close the border” and the like, during a community meeting in South Shore about a former high school potentially
getting turned into a facility for immigrants lacking permanent legal status.

The busing of migrants from border states to big cities has been an enormous political success for Republicans seeking to focus attention on President Biden’s policies that have failed to stop — indeed, affirmatively encouraged — a massive surge of illegal immigration. It has made the border an issue in places far removed from the border. It has forced Democratic mayors to admit, implicitly and explicitly, that migrants are a burden on public services and taxpayers.

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It has stoked tensions between Democrats at the state and municipal levels on the one hand and the White House on the other over resources and border policy. That’s not bad for the price of some bus tickets.

Outgoing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a state of emergency this month after 8,000 migrants arrived from Texas since August.
Chicago is a city of 2.7 million. The influx represents about 0.29% of the population.

Mayor Eric Adams has said New York City “is being destroyed by the migrant crisis.” Roughly 60,000 migrants have arrived since the spring of 2022 on buses from Texas and under their own power.

New York is one of the greatest cities in the world, with a population of more than 8 million, and already has hundreds of thousands of immigrants who entered the country illegally living in it. The mayor of Washington, DC, Muriel Bowser, (unsuccessfully) called on the Pentagon to help with handling newly arriving migrants last year.

All these places are “sanctuary cities.”

There’s NIMBYism, and then there’s self-righteously declaring you want more of something and crying foul when it shows up at your doorstep. Sanctuary cities begging for a respite from illegal immigration is a little like a nuclear-free zone in the 1980s petitioning to become the site for Minuteman missiles.

If no plan survives first contact with the enemy, evidently no sanctuary city can survive any exposure to the real-world consequences of Biden’s border crisis.

It used to be that it was only immigration hawks, presumed to be hardhearted and ill-intentioned, who talked of the costs of illegal immigration. Migrants need housing, education and medical care, among other public services — all of which are expensive and drain resources from other priorities. If this can be ignored when it is some other jurisdiction bearing the costs, it becomes undeniable when it is your own city struggling to make it work.

Estimates are that caring for the new migrants is going to cost New York City about $3 billion next year. An adviser to Adams told Politico, as the publication paraphrased it, “most New Yorkers would rather see investments in schools, libraries and other city services than billions more spent to help the newcomers.”


Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s busing policy “inhumane.” By what standard? A couple of million immigrants have illegally entered the country since Biden became president. Should they all stay in the border states? Why shouldn’t big cities receive their share?

Some migrants would show up — and have shown up — in the big cities anyway. Should those migrants be blocked and sent back to Arizona and Texas?

Migrants, by the way, are volunteering to go on the buses because they want to travel to the cities in question. The ire of Democratic mayors and governors would be best directed at the author of this mess, Biden.

Adams has been willing to go there, saying Biden has “failed” the city on immigration. Actually, he’s failed the entire country, something that might not be as obvious if blue cities were shielded from the effects of his de facto open border.

Rich Lowry writes for the New York Post, Politico, and other national publications.