President Trump wants to send migrants flooding the southwest border to sanctuary cities, which are largely Democratic strongholds. The idea is to punish Democratic-leaning locales for the party’s opposition to Trump’s strong-arm immigration policies.
Sanctuary cities should take him up on it—and put those migrants to work. Many of those cities, in fact, could actually use the workers.
Sanctuary cities are “non-cooperative jurisdictions” that don’t support federal efforts to round up people in the country illegally, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Trump has tried to withhold federal aid from sanctuary cities, but courts have struck that down. Now, he’s “giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” according to an April 12 tweet. This follows news reports that immigration authorities have rebuffed White House efforts to release border detainees in places populated by Democrats.
It’s a foolish idea that demonstrates how incoherent Trump’s immigration strategy is. Still, sanctuary mayors should tell Trump—send ‘em over! We’ll find work for them.
Many sanctuary cities have unemployment rates below the national average of 3.8%, and could probably find space for thousands of migrants in the local workforce. Here’s a list of the largest sanctuary cities identified by the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration group, along with the unemployment rate for each city:
Trump has perpetuated many myths about immigration, both legal and illegal. He characterizes many migrants as criminals, for instance, when the vast majority are fleeing crime and poverty, and willing to work. He also regards immigration as a drain on the U.S. economy, even though economists say robust immigration that expands the labor force boosts economic growth.
Most of the migrants arriving at the southwest border in recent months aren’t trying to sneak into the United States illegally. They’re presenting themselves to border agents and applying for asylum and other forms of legal entry. The legal system is swamped, however, and many applicants wait months for a hearing. Trump’s new brainstorm is to drop them in sanctuary cities while they wait.
A sharp mayor might see this as an opportunity to huddle with local employers, figure out who needs lower-skilled workers and design a program—or piggyback on an existing one—that can funnel temporary workers where the jobs are. Immigrants are more entrepreneurial than native-born Americans, and as some of Trump’s migrants become legal workers, mayors might offer assistance to start businesses.
Yes, there would be challenges with children, health care and social issues. But well-run cities are geared to deal with such issues and respond to problems faster than over-politicized and often distant federal agencies.
This could be a boon for farm communities in particular, which in some cases are desperate for workers. The Center for Immigration Studies lists sanctuary counties along with cities. Among those in the thoroughly Democratic state of California are Riverside (unemployment rate: 3.8%), Sonoma (2.4%) and Sacramento (3.4%). Politically important Pennsylvania could use some extra workers in Franklin (3.1%), Lancaster (2.9%) and Westmoreland (3.6%) counties. And there are at least 12 sanctuary counties in the key state of Iowa, including Benton (2.3%), Marion (1.9%) and Sioux (1.5).
City and county executives should call Trump’s bluff. Farmers and business owners might be so thankful for the extra hands they’ll toss Trump a few additional votes in 2020. Some of those migrants might even become permanent workers who vote themselves some day—for a Republican, maybe.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman