Not Even Migrants Want to Live in America’s Dying Cities


November 16, 2023

By Brian Lonergan

How bad has life become in a now-borderless America? So bad that now many of those fleeing the poverty-stricken Third World are choosing to return to their homelands, seeing the United States as the worse option.

That was the takeaway from a recent Chicago Tribune account of the situation in the Windy City, which has been overrun with migrants as a result of the city’s misguided embrace of sanctuary policies, combined with the Biden White House’s dissolution of border security, and general urban decay.

Venezuelan migrants, for example, now say they are disgusted by Chicago’s lack of shelter facilities, their inability to secure jobs in the city, and long wait times for being granted asylum.

“The American Dream doesn’t exist anymore,” Venezuelan national Michael Castejon, 39, told the Tribune. “There’s nothing here for us. We just want to be home … If we’re going to be sleeping in the streets here, we’d rather be sleeping in the streets over there.”

Our poor people are supposed to be the envy of other people around the world. To prove the point, leftists have been willing to import millions more poor people just to show we can take care of them, too.

That was always unwise and undesirable, but now we have reached the limits of what’s even possible.

In 1974, ecologist Garrett Hardin published two articles detailing the philosophical concept of lifeboat ethics. If a lifeboat with a capacity for 60 people had 50 aboard and 100 in the water trying to board, the people on the lifeboat have three options. First, allow all 100 to swamp their boat, ensuring that everyone will drown. Second, select 10 swimmers to come on board, which pushes the limits of the lifeboat’s ability to remain seaworthy. The final option is to admit none of the swimmers.

For most of our nation’s history, America has practiced a version of the second option. There was a system in place for accepting foreign nationals seeking to immigrate, and their numbers were controlled through things like nation quotas, background checks, and border control.

America has taken on financial and social debts it cannot pay as a result of excessive immigration, and the consequences of those decisions have adversely affected all but the wealthy elites among us.

Increasingly over the last few decades, America has been transitioning from the second option to the first. Thanks to ideas like the Customs and Border Protection’s “CBP One” app and the noxious catch-and-release policy, illegal aliens are processed quickly into the United States and can live here for years before seeing the inside of an immigration court. Where America once considered it had the right to pick and choose who was allowed to enter, in today’s upside-down environment, foreign nationals enter the country at the time and place of their choosing. According to Customs and Border Protection data, more than 8 million people have entered the country illegally since the current administration began, smashing all previous records.

We are now discovering America’s abundance has its limits. Large cities are going bankrupt from the influx of migrants. Sanctuary mayors who once bragged about their cities’ limitless welcoming capacity are reversing course and even traveling to Latin America to tell locals there not to make the journey north.     

Thanks to slick messaging from anti-borders advocates in government, media, and activist groups, there is a growing perception in America that our country somehow owes a debt to the downtrodden of the world. Our success has been acquired at their expense, the thinking goes, and the only way to right that wrong is to allow them unfettered passage into America to enjoy an array of welfare benefits normally reserved for citizens and legal residents.   

Because of America’s abundance, that philosophy was able to take root without directly affecting the lives of most American citizens. That is no longer the case, as years of reckless immigration policies are affecting states beyond just those along our southern border. Hospital emergency rooms and shelters for homeless Americans are now over capacity in many cities, in large part because of increased usage by those here illegally. Fentanyl smuggled across our surrendered border is killing people in all 50 states and is now the leading cause of death for Americans 18-45 years old. Thanks in large part to our porous borders, America has also become a haven for child trafficking.

Are these signs of a nation in its ascendancy or of one in decline? Whether done in the name of altruism or cynical political opportunism, America has taken on financial and social debts it cannot pay as a result of excessive immigration, and the consequences of those decisions have adversely affected all but the wealthy elites among us. Lifeboat America has been swamped and is taking on water. What we do next will determine whether it sinks or floats.

Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) in Washington, D.C, and co-host of IRLI’s “No Border, No Country” podcast.

Also published at Chronicles, November 16, 2023.

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