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Eric Adams

Migrant crisis roils big cities as Hill talks grind on

Even as the bipartisan talks over border security and immigration continue on Capitol Hill, the continuing wave of migrants arriving in large northern cities is changing the political dynamics surrounding the high-profile issue.

After New York City officials threatened to seize buses carrying migrants into the city if they failed to follow certain rules last week, hundreds of asylum seekers were dropped off in New Jersey over the weekend, where they sought to take trains onto New York.

And in Chicago, a plane full of migrants arrived at an airport near the city at 1 a.m. Sunday and were “then placed on buses chartered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and dropped in various surrounding suburbs, left to find their way to the city,” according to Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. Johnson said there was “no communication” from Texas officials about the migrants, including their arrival on a private plane.

Abbott has dramatically shifted the immigration debate by dispatching buses carrying tens of thousands of asylum seekers caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to cities across the country.

The tactic has made a huge impact in New York City and other major metropolitan areas far from the border. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, for instance, has complained that more than 7,000 migrants entered the city’s intake system in just the last two weeks. That’s part of more than 150,000 migrants who arrived in New York City since spring 2023, with more than 60,000 still receiving city services.

Adams has slammed Abbott for using the migrants as “political pawns” in the immigration and border security debate, but he’s also appealed for more federal help to deal with the inflow. Abbott’s office countered that big-city mayors — many of them Democrats — are hypocrites for refusing to support a tougher stance on border security.

Faced with a historic surge of asylum seekers trying to enter the United States, Abbott has signed a new Texas law that allows state law enforcement agencies to arrest undocumented immigrants. Pro-immigration groups immediately challenged the law in court, arguing that Abbott is clearly violating federal law by usurping federal authority over immigration and border security.

Abbott is also spending more than $1 billion in state money to build a new fence along parts of Texas’ long border with Mexico.

The bipartisan congressional talks being led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) continued throughout the holiday recess, although there is no sign of a breakthrough at this point. The issue has become merged with the ongoing debate over U.S. aid to Ukraine as Republicans refuse to approve more funding for that embattled ally unless Democrats agree to new border security and immigration measures.

Speaker Mike Johnson will be heading to the border this week with a group of House Republicans. Johnson has been pushing for Congress to pass H.R. 2, the House GOP’s hardline immigration-and-border-security bill. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas will also visit the border this week.

— John Bresnahan

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