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EAGLE PASS, TEXAS - 4 FEBRUARY: U.S. Border Patrol agents guard migrants that crossed into Shelby Park as they wait to be picked up for processing on 4 February 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. As tens of thousands of migrants attempting to cross the border from Mexico every month, migration has reached crisis level around the country. (Photo by Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)

U.S. Border Crisis Reaches Far from the Border

The migrant crisis in New York City and other cities far from the Southern border of the United States has become acute. Meanwhile, the political crisis of illegal border crossings seems as intractable as ever with tensions rising.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has said on multiple occasions that the migrant crisis would destroy the city. On 5 February, he joined a police raid of a Bronx home of Victor Parra, who is believed to be behind a rash of thefts in the city. Police said they think the man entered the country from Venezuela a year ago, and he was allegedly recruiting more recent migrants to snatch cell phones and bags from people as they speed past on mopeds or scooters. Officials say more than 60 such incidents have been reported in the last few days.

In the scheme, authorities allege that Parra would pay for the phones, then try to hack into personal accounts of the phones' owners.

The mayor’s participation in the raid comes six days after the New York City Police Department (NYPD) released a provocative video of police attempting to subdue an individual believed to be a migrant. Others, also believed to be migrants, joined the melee, kicking and wrestling with the two officers until the original target was allowed to escape, at which point the scrum broke up.

Critics of the mayor dismissed the raid as counterproductive. “His most recent stunt with the NYPD sends the wrong kind of message to New Yorkers about our newest arrivals and incites fear of police among asylum seekers,” Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, told The New York Times.

At a news conference following the raid, Adams said, “I want to reiterate the overwhelming number of 170,000-plus migrants and asylum seekers are attempting to continue their next leg of their journey of pursuing the American dream. But those who commit a crime will be treated like any other criminal in this city. No different mindset, no different reaction, no different response from the police department.”

New York is not the only city far from the southern border dealing with an influx of migrants, many of them bussed to the locations as part of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s controversial relocation program. In Chicago, approximately 14,000 migrants are in city-run shelters. The city is on pace to blow through its $150 million migrant response budget for the year by April.

Chicago’s shelter system is supposed to provide temporary housing, and no one is supposed to stay longer than 60 days. Chicago has intervened to temporarily lengthen allowable stays so that migrants are not evicted into winter elements. However, the city says evictions from shelters will likely begin again in March. Several suburban communities bordering Chicago are also feeling the strain.

Denver is another city struggling with migration. An estimated 38,000 migrants have arrived in the city in the last year. The city procured hotels and other shelters for the influx, but with more people continuing to arrive, the mayor made the difficult decision to evict those who have been sheltered the longest in favor of new arrivals. Many of those evicted have no place to go to protect themselves from the harsh Rocky Mountain winter.

The number of encounters the U.S. Border Patrol has along the southern border continues to increase. An encounter is defined as an illegal entry or an attempted entry that was turned away. In December 2023, U.S. border authorities recorded a new high mark for encounters: 302,034, which is 32,299 more than the previous record set in September 2023. October and November were also historically high.

The border crisis is especially acute in Texas, which is fighting with the federal government over how to deal with the issue. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal border control could remove controversial border protections, including river buoys and razor wire, installed by Texas. U.S. officials said the measures had led to migrant deaths. Abbott, however, has said his state will defy the Supreme Court ruling, setting up an unprecedented showdown.

The situation led to a small group of people from other U.S. states to drive caravan-style to a ranch near Eagle Pass, Texas, which is one of the central points of tension between Texas and federal authorities. The caravan arrived over the weekend, and while local and federal authorities had prepared for civil unrest, no incidents were reported.

With the blessing of the Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (New York) and the Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (Kentucky), Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), and Chris Murphy (D-CN) worked on a bill to address the border and support for Ukraine and Israel. After weeks of negotiation, they released the bill this week.

However, as details of the bill emerged piecemeal over the last couple of weeks, many Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), and a few Democrats expressed skepticism. Misinformation about the bill became common talking points among detractors.

As more and more lawmakers from both parties express concerns—or hostility—to the bill, legislative relief for the situation looks increasingly unlikely.