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Biden needs to demonstrate proactive leadership on migrant crisis

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on January 21, 2024.

In 2023, 2.4 million migrants crossed our southern border in search of political asylum or a better life, overwhelming the system used to vet and process them.

In a November 2022 Philadelphia Business Journal column, I wrote about how important immigrants are to our prosperity and global competitiveness. Since U.S. births are declining, immigrants are also important to ensure the health of our social security system. I also wrote, “Biden needs to do his job and implement a strategy to defend our southern border.” Since that column, the situation along our southern border has become much worse. 

The Washington Post, referring to Office of Homeland Security data, reports that during the past three years of the Biden administration, 6 million migrants crossed the border. Of those, 3.7 million were turned away by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, returning to Mexico or their home countries, and 2.3 million migrants were granted entry into the U.S. 

Since April 2022, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott has bused migrants crossing into Texas to New York City; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Chicago and other Democratic cities to highlight the migrant crisis and spread the burden of housing them. 

Over 100,000 migrants arrived in NYC in 2023, overwhelming the city’s ability to house them. More migrants arrive each day from Texas by bus, exacerbating the situation. Other Democratic cities are facing a similar issue.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has stated, “I don’t see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City. We’re getting 10,000 migrants a month.” 

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The cost to shelter migrants as well as other costs will total $1.4 billion in fiscal year ending June 2024, straining NYC’s financial capabilities.  This burden will only increase in the future. It’s projected that NYC’s migrant cost could total $10 billion through 2025.

With designated hotels and shelters for migrants at capacity, some migrants are living in tents. During a heavy rainstorm earlier this month, some 2,000 migrants were moved into schools, forcing students to take classes online and enraging many NYC parents and political leaders.

Quoting New York Democrat Assemblywoman Jamie Williams, “[Migrants displacing students in our schools is] disruptive to our students, it’s not fair to our parents, we have the migrants being placed over our own children and our community.” 

In December, the Biden administration announced the construction of 20 miles of border wall. Biden, early in his administration, had abandoned border wall construction undertaken by former President Donald Trump.

The Republicans have held up approval of military aid for Israel and Ukraine as leverage to get the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats to approve strict entry laws and other measures which are opposed by Democrats. 

House Republicans have introduced H.R.2—Secure the Border Act of 2023, which “requires the Department of Homeland Security to construct a border wall (including related infrastructure and technology) along at least 900 miles of that border” among other provisions to control migrant entry into the U.S. 

H.R.2 does not play well with Democratic progressives, who don’t recognize the political harm that they are causing Biden by holding on to their less restrictive border position. As well, H.R. 2 does not play well with House Republican conservatives who don’t want to help Biden address the migrant crisis before the 2024 elections.

A CBS poll conducted Jan. 3 through Jan. 5 found that 75% of Americans view the situation at our southern border a crisis or very serious. Of those polled, 63% favor tougher immigration policies. Of those polled, 68% disapprove of the way Biden is managing the U.S.-Mexico border issue. Congressional Republicans didn’t score much better, with 63% disapproval. 

To many Americans, Biden is passive on the migrant crisis. He needs to lead proactively on this issue and take control of the narrative rather than being a victim of the narrative. 

The southern border migrant issue has gone on for too long, overwhelming our cities’ ability to house them and disrupting the lives of some city residents. Without change, the situation will get worse. Voters are angry and will hold Biden accountable for not securing the border. As the November 2024 election approaches, this issue will cost him votes. Biden needs to be a more decisive leader on this issue.

Stan Silverman is founder of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at

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