Editor's Note

Editor’s Note: What Jim Kenney can learn from Eric Adams

If Philly is expecting even more migrants, better take some notes from New York City – on what not to do.

Mayors Jim Kenney and Eric Adams

Mayors Jim Kenney and Eric Adams Michael Candelori/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images; Michael Appleton – Mayoral Photography Office

Over the summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent thousands of people who illegally crossed the southern border to New York City. New York City Mayor Eric Adams rolled out the welcome mat, but he quickly realized that the influx was overwhelming the city’s human services infrastructure. He declared a state of emergency and pleaded for help from the state and federal government. 

This month, four times in 10 days, Philadelphia received busloads of migrants – roughly 200 total – from Texas. Abbott did not coordinate with Philadelphia officials about the buses any time. It is unclear whether he (or any other Republican governor) will keep sending more people from the southern border, but like New York, Philadelphia is a sanctuary city – a status conferred by a judge in 2018 that made Mayor Jim Kenney so giddy he was dancing in his office. Now that the fourth busload of asylum-seekers has arrived in the city, there is something Kenney might want to keep in mind – because Adams learned a hard lesson when he tried to hide some harsh realities from the public.

When New York City’s shelter system was on the brink of collapse, Adams made claims that thousands of migrants from Latin America had been given temporary housing. When news surfaced that some asylum-seekers fell by the wayside, organizations like Legal Aid and the Coalition for the Homeless blasted him for spouting half-truths and making false statements. 

For those migrants hoping to make a new life in Philadelphia, it would be great if there were some magical fast-track to work authorization – a process currently with a waitlist at least six months long – that’s 150 days after filing an asylum claim, and another month or two for processing. The backlog at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reached a record – they’re reportedly now taking up to a year to issue work permits. 

Adams and Kenney are right that if more migrants are going to be shipped to Democratic cities, coordination prior to their arrival would majorly help in avoiding a human crisis. But sadly, many of these photo ops and sound bites are distracting from the real, decades-long failure of leadership at the federal level at addressing the worsening situation at our nation’s southern border.