On Wednesday, New York City mayor and former cop Eric Adams announced that the migrant crisis “will destroy New York City.” A few days later he directed every city agency to cut spending due to the influx of migrants — which we can be sure will exclude the NYPD — in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. His rhetoric isn’t new: in April he also proclaimed that the city was being “destroyed by the migrant crisis.” He had the nerve a week before these comments to lead a chant of “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”, while just a few weeks ago asylum seekers were forced to sleep on the sidewalk in scorching heat and Adams putting out flyers discouraging migrants to come to NYC.
Adams received praise from Republicans, including Mike Pence, who stated, “hat tip to the mayor of New York, who’s been willing to call out President Joe Biden and his administration for their absolute failure to secure the southern border.” Republicans have jumped at the chance to condemn Biden for his “soft” policies on immigration, despite Biden himself increasing militarization of the border and basically agreeing with Trump’s inhumane policies. Just recently, Biden helped to overrule an ICE detention ban in New Jersey.
Ahead of the 2024 Election, both the Republicans and Democrats are trying to outdo each other on how inhumane and harsh they are on immigration. Throughout his administration, Biden has been positioning himself to the right of Trump, calling for “even more resources to secure the border.” This battle of who can be more anti-immigrant is becoming increasingly cruel, as the example of the floating barrier of buoys with spikes in the Rio Grande shows.
Over the past year, GOP governors, particularly Texas governor Greg Abbott, have been bussing asylum seekers to Democrat-run cities. New York City has a right to shelter law, which Adams has tried to dismantle. He already enacted that single migrants would have to leave shelters after 60 days. Furthermore, he wants to put families with children in congregate shelters, which is currently not allowed under the right to shelter law. Under his watch, a volunteer-run migrant welcome center was shut down. The morning after Adams claimed the migrant crisis would destroy the city, NYPD violently raided a migrant shelter and confiscated mopeds, which are needed for work.
Adams has been in conflict with New York governor Kathy Hochul, who has refused to house migrants in other parts of the state, and the Biden administration, which has not expedited Temporary Protective Status for work authorization, fearing that it would encourage “more unauthorized arrivals.” In this sense, Adams is seeking to deflect blame, but let’s be clear: the blame lies with all of them — and the entire bipartisan regime.
Adams’ handling of the migrant crisis cannot be looked at in isolation. As the administrator of one of the wealthiest cities in the world, his job is to ensure capitalists’ profits. He has waged a war on houseless people throughout his administration, such as declaring a “zero tolerance policy” for people sheltering in the subway. Instead of providing housing for all, the NYPD violently displaces them and gets rid of their belongings, because providing free housing would cut into landlords’ profits and ability to keep charging higher and higher rents. He announced a policy late last year to allow cops to forcibly detain houseless people deemed “unable to meet their basic needs,” pushing them out of sight of wealthier New Yorkers and tourists, in an attempt to hide the inevitable consequences of cuts to social services (austerity) and the inequality inherent to capitalism and show that the city is “open for business.” He has added even more cops to the subways to “keep the city safe,” which ensures that the murderous, racist police can disproportionally terrorize Black and Brown youth even more.
Capitalists rely on hyper-exploitation in the periphery to increase their never satisfied drive for profits, fueling the climate crisis, poverty and violence many are escaping from. As the climate crisis deepens and the effects of imperialism make themselves felt, more will need to flee to safety. The Global South bears the brunt of the climate crisis — a crisis that the corporations of the Global North disproportionately benefit from, making more and more places uninhabitable. Sanctions on countries such as Venezuela and Cuba create the economic crises that many need to flee just to survive, while military intervention by the U.S. in the case of Haiti and many other countries likewise force workers and poor people to leave their countries. And these are all bipartisan policies.
As the crisis deepens, both Democrats and Republicans will scapegoat migrants (and each other) for the failures that are an inevitable consequence of a system that can only sustain itself by an insatiable need for profit. They will use this to divide workers, to prevent solidarity between different groups of workers: blaming immigrants for “taking” services they “don’t deserve” instead of austerity policy. Framing it as a zero-sum game where migrants are benefiting at the “expense” of American workers. Blaming immigrants for capitalist failures, a system where more wealth is funneled to the richest while the majority of humanity are lacking. Blaming them to keep the focus off those — the capitalists — who are truly screwing all of us over, both immigrant and non-immigrant.
While there have been individual Democrats pushing back on Adams’ comments, we can’t fall under the illusion that electing more “progressive” Democrats is the solution: as members of a capitalist party they ultimately are beholden to the same capitalist interests, and the need for a hyper-exploitable source of labor to keep growing their profits. Harsher immigration policy makes an already precarious and hyper-exploitable workforce even more hyper-exploitable.
We need to fight for immigrant rights in the streets, developing a movement independent of Democrats and Republicans to stop the attack on our migrant siblings. Only an independent working-class party fighting for socialism can push for a perspective of independent mobilization and struggle in the streets to unify working people in solidarity with migrants and confront the xenophobic tide. Such a party would put forward a platform for open borders, the immediate demilitarization of the border, down with every anti-immigrant law and full rights for migrants nationwide including public housing for all. Such a party would call unions and community organizations to mobilize in solidarity with migrants.