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Eric Adams

How To Manufacture a ‘Migrant Crime Wave’

As he gears up for reelection, Eric Adams is once again painting with a much darker brush.

11:09 AM EST on February 7, 2024

Eric Adams addressing NYPD officers during an early-morning raid on Monday. (NYPD Twitter)

"Crime is down, jobs are up" has been Mayor Eric Adams's favorite slogan until recently. But after last month's cheery State of the City, Adams has started to paint a much darker picture of New York. 

On Sunday, during a national news appearance, Adams told a reporter that the arrival of migrants would destroy the city, "without a doubt." 

Early Monday morning, the mayor—wearing a Fendi scarf—accompanied the NYPD on a televised raid in the Bronx, where the police claimed to be breaking up a cell phone theft ring allegedly overseen by a recent Venezuelan migrant, who was coordinating with other migrants who were living in the shelter system.

Later on Monday, at a press conference at 1 Police Plaza, Adams's police commissioner invoked the raid, as well as a fight between two police officers and a group of migrants in Times Square in January, and proclaimed that "a wave of migrant crime has washed over our city." 

"They're essentially ghost criminals," Caban said. "No criminal history, no photos, no cell phone, no social media."

"This is a violent gang that did violent acts, and the same way we would zoom in on a Blood gang, we zoomed in on them," Adams added. "This is not about migrants and asylum seekers; it's about criminals who committed a crime, and we would treat criminals the same if they're longstanding New Yorkers or if they just arrived here last year."

What Adams didn't say this week is that his administration's entire strategy towards migrants has been to make their lives miserable in the hope that they will leave New York City, and stop being his problem—"deterrence," if you're being charitable. He's made single migrants leave shelters every 30 days to reapply for shelter, a process that often involves days of sleeping outdoors in the cold, waiting for a new assignment. He's made families leave shelters every 60 days, tearing young students away from classrooms and shuffling them to isolated congregant shelters. And he's limited access to services like bathrooms and City ID cards

Because many of these people still have no legal way to work, many turn to the underground economy to get by—delivering food to you on a borrowed moped, selling candy on the subway, and sometimes engaging in sex work. Miserable conditions make for desperate people, some desperate enough to commit crimes, though the seven migrants charged in Monday's raid out of the over 170,000 migrants hardly counts as a "crime wave." Adams has rightfully called on the federal government to speed up the pace of work permits, to help get migrants into permanent housing and out of city shelters, but his frequent attacks on the Biden administration have alienated him from the same government he's seeking help from. And while the mayor claims (dubiously) that evicting migrants every 30 and 60 days is helping to save the city money, migrants continue to arrive in New York City from the southwest border, while the amount of migrants in City shelters has remained level for the past four months

With the city's budget gap now miraculously plugged, now would be the time for the mayor to take a deep breath and lay out a plan for welcoming and sheltering migrants in the most humane way possible.

But Adams, like the asylum seekers in his charge, is getting desperate. He has the worst approval rating for an NYC mayor in almost 30 years. The City Council is in open revolt against him. And every day seemingly brings new bad headlines related to the federal investigation into his campaign. 

So Adams is doing what he did to get elected in the first place: playing to New Yorkers' fears about crime, and telling them he's the only one who can keep them safe. 

The arrivals of migrants into New York City—the richest city in the richest country in the world, a city built by and for immigrants, with a literal monument to immigration shining in its harbor—is only a "crisis" for the type of politician who needs a crisis. Why come up with actual solutions when you can bust down a door on live TV?

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