Imagine if Sadiq Khan or Andy Burnham, as Labour Mayors of London and Greater Manchester respectively, were to forecast the collapse of their cities because of the small boats crisis. Well, across the pond, the immigration debate has already reached that point.
Earlier this week, Democratic Mayor Eric Adams said of his own city and America’s illegal migration crisis: “This issue will destroy New York City”. And no wonder. In population terms, the Big Apple is basically the same size as Greater London – roughly 8.5 million people. But in the last year, 116,000 illegal migrants have made their way up to New York from the Mexico-US border. Of these, around 60,000 have claimed asylum and are being housed in hotels at the taxpayer’s expense.
But with 100 hotels full to bursting, tent cities are beginning to spring up around the city. Soldiers have been drafted in to help keep order. Adams has declared a state of emergency and the Governor of the State of New York, Kathy Hochul, has called for a “historic humanitarian response”.
Meanwhile, basic public services – policing, street cleaning, schools – are suffering as Adams wields the axe, chopping 5 per cent from core spending to cover the costs of the ever increasing influx and threatening to cut another 10 per cent unless he gets more state or federal government funding. He has little choice in this, for New York is a so-called sanctuary city: every migrant who turns up has a right to shelter, and officials are forbidden from checking people’s migration status when they access public services.
Here in Britain, it can be all too easy to get caught up in our own problems. But the dire situation in New York ought to remind us that the chaos in the Channel is actually just the localised expression of an escalating global migration crisis.
Suella Braverman, who quoted Eric Adams in her speech in Washington this week, was making exactly that point. Simply put, people from developing countries are heading towards the West in unprecedented and still growing numbers, seeking better prospects and taking advantage of outmoded human rights frameworks.
It’s no longer just migrants from Latin America turning up at the Mexico-US border. In the words of Mayor Adams: “Now we are getting people from all over the globe who have made their minds up they’re going to come through the southern border and come into New York City”.
In 2022, 2.6 million migrants were detected illegally crossing the US-Mexico border – enough people to add about 0.7 per cent to America’s population (and that’s just the migrants we know about, not the hundreds of thousands who navigated the 1,950-mile border without being caught).
Now imagine if 470,000 migrants had crossed the Channel in 2022, compared to the 46,000 who actually did. That’s what America has been dealing with. And it‘s getting worse. Mexican border crossings were up by 14 per cent year-on-year this August, to stand at 233,000.
I say America, but for a long time, it was southern border states like Texas and Arizona bearing the brunt of the crisis. Sick of this, some Republican governors began busing migrants up to sanctuary cities like New York. It’s easy to virtue signal about “refugees” when the crisis is 2,000 miles away; less so when it’s on your doorstep and your voters are paying for it. The New York taxpayer is spending the equivalent of £3.2 billion per annum on migrant hotel bills.
At £2.8 billion, the British taxpayer is not forking out much less. But here, asylum seekers have been dispersed around the country, often to run-down seaside towns, which makes the problem less visible. When I ran the numbers earlier this year, there were 50,000 migrants in hotels across 190 local authorities, occupying around 5 per cent of all hotel rooms in the country.
Even so, in 33 local authorities, there was at least one migrant in a hotel for every 500 local residents. For example, in Eastbourne the ratio was 1/286, and in the Borough of Westminster, 1/228. We’re not at New York City levels – one migrant in a hotel for every 142 residents. But unless the Government can find a solution to our corner of the global migration crisis and stop the crossings (like the Australians did), parts of Britain are heading that way.
The usual suspects rushed to denounce Braverman after her speech – but this only reflects the parochialism of our politics. Her tone was mild compared to the debate in the EU. And it had nothing on the interventions we’re now hearing from the mayors of hyper-liberal Democratic strongholds in America.
We haven’t stopped the boats yet, though. Give it a few more years and at this rate, Sadiq Khan or Andy Burnham might well find themselves sounding an awful lot like today’s Mayor of New York.
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