Mayors Adams and Lightfoot demand Colorado stop sending migrants

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis informed New York City this week that he’d be sending more buses full of migrants in the near future. The story made news after Mayor Adams of NYC complained about it during a radio interview Tuesday. But according to Gov. Polis, the buses full of migrants aren’t new. He’s been “helping asylum seekers reach their final destinations” for weeks. He says there is a backlog of migrants wanting to leave Denver and head to New York but because of a recent storm they were stuck in Denver. Now he’s trying to undo that backlog.


Today, Mayor Adams and Mayor Lightfoot of Chicago sent a letter to Gov. Polis demanding that he cease sending migrants to their cities. I’m going to include the whole letter below interspersed with some commentary.

Dear Governor Polis:

It is apparent that the influx of asylum seekers has provoked consternation amongst states. Although we share the concerns of accommodating the flood of asylum seekers, overburdening other cities is not the solution. We respectfully demand that you cease and desist sending migrants to New York City and Chicago. Since December of 2022, Chicago and New York City have received hundreds of individuals from Colorado.  Before the first bus arrived in either of our cities, we informed a Colorado official directly that neither city had any additional room to accommodate any more migrants because of the thousands of migrants that had already been inhumanely bused to our respective cities from Texas since spring of 2022.

Despite this information, you have bused migrants to our cities. The buses have arrived, without any regard to either city’s ability to appropriately shelter them.

Our understanding is that Colorado purports to be a welcoming state. At least as far as we are concerned, whether a welcoming state or welcoming city, the leaders must make sure that those values are lived in good times and especially in challenging times. That is what we have done and we urge you as governor of Colorado to do the same. We know it is hard because we have been facing these challenges for the last nine months. Colorado must reconsider its decision to send people, who are sheltered and receiving services from Denver-based community organizations, out of state, and particularly to cities like ours.


Before we move on, remember that the knock on Governor Abbott has been that he’s sending migrants to NYC and DC as human props, i.e. he doesn’t care about them he’s just making a political point. But as you’ll see, Mayors Adams and Lightfoot are aware that Gov. Polis is sending migrants because they want to go to NYC and Chicago. He’s literally meeting their travel needs and the mayors of these blue cities are demanding that he tell these people no and force them to remain in Colorado.

We have seen your statements in the media that you are simply accommodating the wishes of migrants to come to cities like New York City and Chicago. Both our cites are working tirelessly to ensure that migrants are able to reach their desired destinations where they are reunited with loved ones. However, you are sending migrants and families to New York City and Chicago that do not have any ties, family members or community networks to welcome them, and at a time where both cities are at maximum capacity in shelter space and available services.

So they’re basically claiming that Gov. Polis is lying. The migrants he’s sending don’t really have connections in Chicago or New York and thus could be sent anywhere. These two mayors are almost claiming a kind of “first entry” policy (or maybe second entry) where the state they arrive in after crossing the border must keep them. There are problems with that. For one, many of the migrants making up the latest influx come from Venezuela. Those migrants are far less likely to have relatives or friends already living in the United States. Nevertheless, they are being allowed into the country to claim asylum and they are allowed to travel so long as they check in for their immigration appointments over the next seven years or so. In short, many of these people have no connections anywhere. They are hear to start a new life. If they want to start that new life in Chicago or NYC instead of Denver, should the Gov. of Colorado tell them no?


Since August 31, 2022, the City of Chicago has welcomed 3,854 migrants bused to its city from Texas and additional numbers of migrants who have arrived in Chicago through other means.  In part, as hopefully you know, none of the asylum-seekers have work permits, and thus Chicago is currently providing services to over 1,600 individuals in its shelter system who have no place else to go. The City of Chicago is a welcoming city and is providing wrap around supports including emergency shelter; diversion services; necessities like food and showers; long-term housing; legal services; and both the physical and behavioral health support needs for individuals. Because of all these factors, its shelter system is now over capacity.

For the past nine months, New York City has welcomed an increase of asylum seekers. As of January 4, 2023, an estimated 36,400 asylum seekers have gone through New York City’s emergency intake system, with more staying with family, friends, and other networks. New York City has opened emergency shelters and Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers to meet this unprecedented need. New York City is providing many forms of support, including shelter, food, legal services, household items like clothing and health care, but its ability to provide services is strained.  New York City’s shelters are over capacity. In fiscal year 2023 alone, New York City will spend about $1 billion to address the asylum crisis, and this number will continue to rise if current arrival trends persist.


Granted, that’s a lot of people to deal with but remember the border patrol is encountering up to 8,000 migrants per day at this point. About half of those wind up staying in some fashion. So the number NYC is complaining about dealing with last year is a fraction of the number being allowed entry in Texas and Arizona every month. Where do the mayors think all those people have been going for the past several years?

We urge you to follow the best practices set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that identifies receiving states as leads in providing housing and wrap-around services to asylum-seekers. Additionally, the city of Denver is known nationally for providing some of the best services for unhoused populations—setting best practices throughout the country—it is unusual that you would deprive new arrivals from accessing those resources. In fact, many new arrivals from Colorado had been in your care for weeks, receiving services, and establishing connections only to be uprooted with a promise the receiving cities cannot keep.

To reiterate, you must stop busing migrants to Chicago and New York City. In the case of family reunification, let us work together to ensure that people are reconnected with their loved ones, however sending migrants to our cities whose systems are over capacity, where they may struggle to find shelter and other services is wrong and further victimizes these most vulnerable individuals. These actions do not live up to the values of a proclaimed welcoming state and should stop immediately.

Instead, let us work together to advocate to the federal government for a national solution that responds to this need. New York City and Chicago have always been cities of immigrants. While we are all grappling with a manufactured humanitarian crisis, we must all come together to address this nationwide problem and look forward to working together to meet this challenge.


They’re right about one thing. This is a manufactured crisis. It was manufactured by Joe Biden and the progressives who demanded he repeal as much of the Trump efforts to reduce immigration as possible. And that’s what Biden did on day one of his administration. The Post explained all of this last April:

The prudent tone Biden’s team sounded in December was harder to detect on Inauguration Day, as the guardrails started coming off. Biden issued more executive orders and actions on immigration than any other topic, including a 100-day deportation moratorium and a halt to border wall construction…

Word soon spread that families with children younger than 7 years old were being allowed to enter the United States and released from custody. Families fitting that profile began rushing to that span of the border, where U.S. agents were already overwhelmed by soaring numbers of teens and children arriving alone.

The reason millions of migrants are showing up now is not simply because things are bad in their home countries (though they are) it’s because they’ve gotten the message that now is the time to come.

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Ed Morrissey 11:30 AM | July 21, 2024