By John Klar
Vermont’s politicians like to stand out nationally. Republican Gov. Phil Scott led Vermont’s effort to prohibit its police from supplying identifying information, particularly “immigration status,” to federal authorities. Bernie Sanders’s 2020 platform consists almost entirely of anti-Trump sputtering. Patrick Leahy recently invoked Watergate to challenge President Trump to release the Mueller Report — an awkward splash, since it appears that the Obama FBI was spying on the Trump political campaign in Watergate-on-steroids style.
Then there’s Burlington, Vermont, mayor Miro Weinberger, who strives for Ocasio-Cortez-like stardom. The mayor has challenged the president to transport unlimited numbers of detainees to the Green Mountain State, saying, “The city will welcome the refugees with open arms if Trump follows through on the ‘threat.'”
Unlike some NIMBY sanctuary city leaders who complain that burdening them with detainees is “payback,” Mayor Weinberger has openly invited the feds to deliver the human goods. The goods must be delivered before the mayor retracts his offer.
But Mayor Miro has a huge problem — rampant homelessness and related deterioration in his sanctuary city, Burlington. Nationally, there were an estimated 552,830 homeless in 2018. California and New York have by far the largest number of homeless people. But in Vermont, Burlington saw a 19% increase in homeless people in 2018 over 2017, from 291 to 359, even as “[t]he overall numbers of homeless individuals across the state decreased by two, from 934 to 932[.]”
New York City, which has vociferously declared itself a sanctuary city, is burdened by some 79,000 homeless people, mostly sheltered. Los Angeles struggles with some 50,000 (largely unsheltered) homeless and is addressing problems with rats and fecal matter on sidewalks, where fleas are spreading typhus and hepatitis.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports, “In March, 92,607 people were apprehended between ports of entry on the Southwest Border, compared with 66,884 in the month of February and 47,984 in January. In FY18, a total of 396,579 individuals were apprehended between ports of entry on our Southwest Border.” As Democrats like Mayor Weinberger implore foreigners to move here with offers of reward and protection, these numbers will swell. F.Y. 2019 contemplates the apprehension of more people at ports of entry than Vermont’s entire population of 624,263.
Miro insists that he is “preserving our right to make our own decisions about how best to keep our communities safe.” Yet this man cannot sustain shelters for a mere 350 homeless people. Burlington has been fighting rampant panhandling, public urination, and “debauchery.” The city evicted some homeless people from a wooded area and faces an ongoing suit. Mayor Miro has repeatedly proclaimed that his administration will champion this issue, but he has instead repeatedly failed.
Like Leahy, Sanders, and Scott, Weinberger’s appeal to Vermont voters is his ability to make a national ruckus more than deliver actual policy at home. But his latest fulmination is a risky one, proposing to invite unlimited detainees to Burlington, even “taking some steps, preliminary steps, to be as prepared as we can until more details are known about what they are planning[.]”
Many areas of Vermont — particularly its Northeast Kingdom, which constitutes some 25% of the state’s land area — do not have a single shelter, not even in churches. Making matters worse, Vermont has bitter, long winters.
Vermont is paying workers $10,000 each to relocate here and has just expanded that program. Perhaps we should just sift through the huddled masses to our far south for qualified applicants and kill two birds with one stone.
If Canadians permeated our northern border, presumably, Democrats would welcome their (largely liberal) white neighbors. Conservatives could then point to the problem of unregulated immigration without the taint of alleged racism impeding common sense. Canadians would fit in well in northern Vermont, where a long line of Canadian diaspora continue to cling to the clay muck.
But it would not be fair for Vermont to absorb all the Canadians. It would have to share both the cost (and the joy!) and export some Canadians down to, say, Texas. This is precisely what the Trump administration is weighing, in reverse — as Sarah Sanders put it, “so that the towns right there on the border aren’t taking on the entire burden and that we’re shifting some of that burden to places who constantly claim to want to have open borders and want to have an open city.”
Human populations are being disrupted globally. It is estimated that there are 2.5 million orphaned children in Uganda alone — shall we airlift them all to Burlington, for Mayor Miro to feed and house? If he balked at the proposition, would that mean he is racist? Is it “fair” that Ugandans are ignored because they cannot flock to the border?
President Trump should accept literally Burlington’s offer and dispatch a sizeable consignment of immigrants to Vermont (in springtime, while it’s warm). Why disappoint the mayor?
“[W]e don’t want to overreact and put massive, large amounts of resources into something that may never materialize,” he said.
“Here, the way we overcome the kind of venom the administration is putting out is to remind Americans that we are a country of immigrants, that we are a country that really has been built by wave after wave of people coming here for a variety of reasons[.]”
If Mayor Miro Weinberger can accrue “massive, large amounts of resources” to assist “wave after wave of people coming here for a variety of reasons,” it would be criminal for Donald Trump to decline such a magnanimous humanitarian gesture. At last, instead of begging for federal disaster relief, here is a state that is stepping up and contributing at the local level to solve an admitted national crisis.
Author George Orwell often expressed disgust with his fellow Englishmen, whom he criticized for a bourgeois disconnect whereby they called for liberation of third-world countries without sacrificing their own standard of living:
Orwell thought that any Englishman who boasted of liberty and prosperity while India was still a colony was a hypocrite. “In order that England may live in comparative comfort, a hundred million Indians must live on the verge of starvation — an evil state of affairs, but you acquiesce in it every time you step into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream[.]”
If we are to help “hundreds of millions,” we must help them where they are. This applies to El Salvadorans as well as Ugandans.
President Trump should implement Orwell’s truth by busing detainees en masse from America’s southern to its northern border, where Burlington awaits and has issued public invitation. No coercion is required. It is perfectly legal for the federal government to (non-forcibly) bus people from one jurisdiction to another. Ample detainees will volunteer to accept Vermont’s invite, without a $10,000 bribe.
Five thousand immigrants should be a sufficient “wave” for Miro to rescue, and for the rest of the nation to witness. Let’s see who volunteers to sacrifice his strawberries and cream.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. This commentary originally appeared at American Thinker.