New York just can’t afford to remain a sanctuary city


“No one is above the law.” But is the slogan applied as universally as it’s uttered? Or are the words selectively aimed at ideological opponents on an as-needed basis?

One need look no further than our immigration chaos to understand that, in fact, millions of people have had the privilege of being placed above the law.

As our southern border has become a highway to havens, state and local authorities have chosen to ignore the immigration violations of our newest arrivals.

We designated our city a “sanctuary” out of compassion.

We are, historically, a city of immigrants, and we empathize with many of the new arrivals.

But our compassion is being tested by unprecedented numbers of newcomers accompanied by unparalleled costs our leaders call “unsustainable.”

Before New York crumbles under the weight of endless immigration, we need to end our “sanctuary city” policy.

Sanctuary cities like New York refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and share citizenship status, arrest data and addresses.

Local officials often smugly flaunt their right to do so. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in August 2018 during his re-election campaign, declared, “New York state is the state that said we will not cooperate with ICE, they’re a bunch of thugs.”

With federal authorities pursuing a virtual open border policy, plainly some offenders are above the law.

A large crowd of migrants gathered at the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on April 10, 2023.
Luis Torres/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Federal law makes clear an alien who has illegally entered America (or is violating any US law) is “deportable.” “Illegal entrants and immigration violators” are “ineligible for visas or admission.”

Even where the officer initially believes the person may have a legitimate asylum claim, he or she still is required to be “detained” for further proceedings.

The Biden administration isn’t enforcing immigration law as it should. But to be fair to the federal authorities, enforcement becomes burdensome or even impossible when state and local police won’t provide ICE any information that would assist in removal.

The real wall in our immigration system has been erected between federal officials and state bureaucrats.

This impasse has taken a toll on the nation. Southern border officials had nearly 2.4 million migrant encounters in fiscal 2022 — a hefty rise from 2021’s 1.7 million.

And a major influx of illegal entrants has hit the Big Apple.

As buses arrived daily at Port Authority, Mayor Eric Adams said Oct. 7 that “more people are arriving in New York City than we can immediately accommodate”: “Once the asylum seekers from today’s buses are provided shelter, we would surpass the highest number of people in recorded history in our city’s shelter system.”

This month The Post reported the 30,000 illegal migrants housed in hotels, shelters and other facilities around the city are costing taxpayers $5 million per day.

City Emergency Management chief Zach Iscol noted the city is on the hook for $1.7 billion this year, with a two-year total of $4 billion.

An independent immigration watchdog group set the overall cost of illegal immigration here at a much higher $10 billion per year.

A migrant arriving at a new shelter in Red Hook, Brooklyn on January 31, 2023.
A migrant arriving at a new shelter in Red Hook, Brooklyn on January 31, 2023.
Gabriella Bass

We can already feel these unbudgeted expenses. City library hours are being reduced. How long until police and fire department response times increase?

What kind of city government provides “sanctuary” to its newest arrivals as it endangers the safety of its citizens?

Adams says, “Although our compassion is limitless, our resources are not. This is unsustainable.” But for whom is our compassion “limitless”?

Every New Yorker should empathize with people who risk their lives and their children’s to come to America.

But burdening taxpaying New Yorkers with all the costs is hardly compassion for our citizens. It’s more fittingly contempt.

Adams said the federal government needs to “step up” and assist with the never-ending influx of illegal migrants.

But why would the feds “step up” for a mayor and a city that continue to refuse all aspects of cooperation with federal immigration authorities?

Why would the feds enforce immigration laws that hundreds of localities throughout the nation don’t want enforced?

And why would the feds see our city in need of assistance when its primary immigration policy is to welcome illegal entrants with no questions asked?

When Adams stood at the Port Authority bus terminal last August, greeting migrants with a “Welcome” and a handshake, he quipped to The Post, “As the mayor of the city of New York, I don’t weigh into immigration issues, border issues.”

Well, Mr. Mayor, why not?

If the Biden administration refuses appropriate assistance, the city needs to find ways to help itself. “Unsustainable” is not a plan.

Migrants arriving from El Paso, Texas on a bus at the Port Authority in Manhattan on September 6, 2022.
Migrants arriving from El Paso, Texas on a bus at the Port Authority in Manhattan on September 6, 2022.
Robert Miller

Let’s begin with the lowest-hanging fruit. City sanctuary policy prohibits cooperation between city law enforcement and ICE, and this should change.

Federal law bars the admission of aliens convicted of drug-related crimes. With US fentanyl deaths approaching 100,000 per year, we shouldn’t give “sanctuary” to those killing our children.

All drug offenders should be checked upon arrest for immigration status, and, upon conviction, law enforcement should notify ICE to prepare deportation proceedings. Convicts sentenced to prison must be transferred directly to ICE on release.

Aliens convicted of crimes of “moral turpitude” are also barred. Violent felons don’t need “sanctuary” either. Compassion does not include a path to societal suicide.

Second, New York City needs to renew traditional immigration-screening protocols when it comes to public coffers.

As estimates widely range from $1 billion to $10 billion for total annual costs (suggesting that actual costs, like the actual number of future arrivals, are unknown), the city has moved nearly 30,000 migrants into hotels like the upscale Row near Hell’s Kitchen and the Milford Plaza in Times Square.

Hotel staff complain of violent behavior, fights, drug abuse and drinking among the residents, and some workers have been injured in the chaos. “This is a free-for-all,” a Row employee said.

The city is also picking up the tab for meals, education of school-age children and medical care.

But federal statutes make clear that these many of these expenses, in and of themselves, are grounds for exclusion: “Any alien who” is “likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible.”

Third, the mayor should note federal law ordering the exclusion of aliens with communicable diseases, mental or physical disorders that may involve a threat to the public and drug abusers and addicts.

Such exclusions should be an easy call in the wake of our COVID-19 lockdowns.

Sanctuary status should not place public health in danger by risking widespread infection or threats to public safety. Such cases require prompt action for quarantine and deportation through ICE.

We’re sympathetic to the plight of those looking for a better life for themselves and their families. But we also understand New Yorkers’ needs.

Our city and state offer blanket sanctuary to illegal entrants without any knowledge about who they may be, why they are arriving and what they plan on doing here.

Over the last 2½ years, all aspects of illegal immigration have radically changed. Unlimited sanctuary is a luxury we can no longer afford.

It is time we did what is best for our city, our residents, and our businesses.

State and local governments cannot govern with compassion for some and contempt for everyone else.

The rules of sanctuary need to change. No one is above the law.

Attorney Peter Reinharz was the chief prosecutor in New York City’s Family Courts from 1987-2002. Andrew Stein, a Democrat, served as New York City Council president, 1986-94.

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