by Brian Lonergan
Throughout much of the 20th century, America’s status as an economic superpower and the world’s standard-bearer for freedom and opportunity was due in no small measure to the successes of New York and California. Today, those states have become symbols of America’s decline, as the consequences of their incompetent, partisan leadership are now undeniable. Nowhere is this clearer than how these two formerly great states have addressed immigration.
Despite the fact that several counties in upstate New York are fairly moderate politically, the state government is largely influenced by New York City, and the leadership of New York City is not living in the same reality as the rest of us.
Two elected officials from the Big Apple at the state capital in Albany are currently pushing a bill that would allocate as much as $300 million to provide legal services for illegal aliens fighting deportation. The state that was arguably hardest hit by the pandemic and is still recovering would have to make a $55 million down payment next year to get the program started.
This is not just a bad idea, but a complete misunderstanding of immigration law. Entering the country illegally is a civil matter, not a criminal one. Litigants in civil matters have no right to legal representation paid by the state.
This has not stopped the city from finding a back door to help immigration violators avoid deportation. Earlier this year an investigation by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) found that the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York-based progressive nonprofit, worked with the city to develop a program to provide free or low-cost legal assistance to aliens.
While the group provides a one-time grant to initiate the program, its aim is for the program to be funded with taxpayer funds thereafter. Vera has spread the program to at least 20 other communities across the nation.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams just spent months complaining in the media about how a few busloads of illegal aliens from Texas were crippling the city’s social services. Why, then, are city’s representatives in the state government trying to keep even more aliens in the city?
California, meanwhile, makes a good case for being known as the most unhinged state when it comes to immigration policy. At the height of the pandemic and with limited resources to help its legal residents, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a plan to distribute $125 million to illegal aliens living in the state as relief assistance during the pandemic.
The Golden State’s law to close all its detention facilities run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was so unacceptable that even the left-leaning Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down in September.
California’s immigration virtue signaling carries a hefty price tag. State residents foot the bill for more than $23 billion in costs directly attributable to illegal immigration and its effects. That breaks down to almost $2,000 for every legal household each year. This from a state that is already carrying more than $1.3 trillion in total state, county, and municipal debt.
In addition to the crippling financial burdens it brings, New York and California’s obsession with illegal immigration has contributed to soaring crime rates. Due in large part to the hellish reign of sanctuary Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York City of Rudy Giuliani—credibly called the “Safest Big City in the World” at the time—quickly became a place where deportable aliens are charged with sexual assault and murder against grandmothers on public sidewalks.
With the anti-borders policies of Newsom, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, and others in place, California also has a runaway crime problem. Former L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti released a video in 2019 promising to defy the Trump Administration and federal immigration authorities.
“I want you to know, you do not need to be afraid,” Garcetti said. “Your city is on your side, and rest assured, here in Los Angeles, we are not coordinating with ICE.”
That kind of permissiveness disguised as compassion has a body count. Last year Karen Ruiz, a 35-year-old mother in Pacoima, California, was shot dead in her driveway. The incident was recorded on her home security camera. Police identified the shooter as Herbert Nixon Flores, her ex-husband, and father of her child, who shot and killed himself days later.
Flores had an extensive criminal history and was a repeat immigration offender. He had been sought by ICE for removal after a previous arrest, but the LAPD denied the detainer request as part of the city’s sanctuary policy.
With madness like this, it should surprise no one that IRLI’s ranking of the country’s most dangerous sanctuary communities in August included New York first, Los Angeles second, and San Francisco fifth. California and New York also hold the top two positions in states with the most residents moving out.
America has always stood apart from the rest of the world as a nation of unbridled optimism. With two of its leading states hell-bent on self-destruction, the source of our future optimism will have to come from somewhere else.
– – –
Brian Lonergan is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.