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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Allen: Migrant services taxing New York

By Cynthia Allen
Published: August 3, 2023, 6:01am

A couple years ago, a column in The Washington Post criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his decision to pull the licenses of shelters and foster-care programs that provided care to unaccompanied migrant children.

There was at the time (and still is) a major migrant crisis at the border. COVID-era policies further limited shelter capacity. Service providers were becoming strapped.

Abbott’s move, however harshly it was portrayed in the national media, was intended to force the federal government to assume care of these children and free up state resources that were overwhelmed — and intended for state residents.

Texas is accustomed to bearing most of the brunt of failed immigration policies, but in recent years, the burden has grown. And the migrant surge, Abbott argued, was ultimately the federal government’s responsibility.

Still, the news stories played only one way.

“There’s no room in the inn in Texas,” asserted a heart-wrenching headline that was also an obvious swipe at Abbott’s Christian faith.

Without delving into the moral or legal implications of Abbott’s move, one can still recognize that his action was a legitimate policy response to a serious and arguably preventable problem – one the state didn’t cause but had been left to manage.

Even if Texas had wanted to ensure the care of every migrant child coming across its border, there were practical limits on how many children could be served without hampering care for its own citizenry. Policymaking lies somewhere in the space between idealism and reality.

That’s a hard lesson, but even progressive New York City Mayor Eric Adams seems to be getting it.

Since Texas began offering migrants transportation to “sanctuary cities” such as New York City and Chicago last spring, the city says it has provided services to about 90,000 migrants. Nearly 55,000 remain in its care with hundreds, if not thousands, more arriving each week.

That has taxed and stretched city services, which are already caring for more than 100,000 of the city’s own homeless residents. The city has been forced to rent hotel rooms as temporary housing for migrants.

“We’re projected to spend close to $4.3 billion (on migrant services),” Adams told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in May, “if not more.” As a consequence, budget cuts to other city services are looming.

Adams’ 2024 budget has ordered nonprofits that help operate city shelters to find ways to reduce their costs, including cutting hours and increasing caseloads.

In an effort to share what Adams believes is an undue burden on his city, the mayor announced in May that he would ship willing asylum-seekers to neighboring communities for shelter.

His plan was met with consternation by municipal leaders. One claimed there was “nothing humanitarian about a sanctuary city sending busloads of people to a county that does not have the infrastructure to care for them.”

It all sounds so familiar.

Last month, Adams declared what Abbott only implied two years before: “We have no more room.”

At a news conference, Adams also announced a plan to distribute bilingual flyers to migrants along the border, warning them that New York City could no longer guarantee shelter or other assistance.

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In fairness to Adams, he has come to recognize that the federal government bears responsibility for the situation in which his city now finds itself.

“New York has received the brunt, close to 60,000 of those who are coming to the city to participate in the American Dream and we’re not giving them the resources,” the mayor said in May.

Again, so familiar.

And while Adams has not been shy about blaming the Biden administration for its inadequate support, he has fallen short of calling on President Joe Biden to tighten up border enforcement.

Perhaps that will soon change. For now, he just wants other states to share the load and the federal government to start picking up the tab.

Texas can relate.