The Homeless, Illegals, and the Politics of Virtue Signaling

We have no idea how many of the homeless are illegal immigrants, but we do know that homeless shelters in big cities will not cooperate with blanket ICE searches for illegals.

Shelter workers are trained to request a warrant for a specific individual, and without that, they are told to keep ICE at bay.

The extent to which the ACLU and pro-illegal immigration organizations have gone to educate homeless shelters about how to deal with ICE indicates that the presence of illegals in these shelters is not insignificant.

Shelters are all-too-often in lesser supply than the demand for accommodations, especially during winter in brutal climes in places like Chicago.

Having walked the frigid streets of that city going from shelter to shelter in search of a homeless relative, I know something about the dynamics of how the homeless survive the unforgiving cold where a place in a shelter can mean the difference between freezing to death in the street or waking up alive.

Competition for safe harbor is fierce. And the homeless line up and prance in the cold to stay warm long before the shelters open.

American citizens -- even veterans, mothers, and children -- compete equally with illegals. This is the consequence of our so-called policy of “compassion” enunciated by open-border billionaires like Beto O’Rourke and liberal virtue signalers.

O’Rourke would like to send $5 billion to the failed states that have produced the immigration crisis. How many billions would solve our own humanitarian crisis of homelessness?

Illegal immigrants do not compete for resources or jobs with billionaires or smug middle-class professionals who drip with compassion and want to bring them into America in ever larger numbers.

But on the streets of our cities, illegals compete with the most vulnerable people in our society, just as decades ago when Cesar Chavez saw an unending supply of cheap illegal labor being a threat to the wellbeing of his union members.

A CEO that I know speaks insufferably of her support of “immigrants” and DACA, but she will never have to face competition from anyone crossing the border illegally. Her well-paid position in a Silicon Valley startup and her stock options are not at risk. But America’s homeless sleeping on the streets and in shelters, just a mile from her trendy townhouse in a gated San Francisco complex, will compete with these people for the basics of survival.

They are disproportionately black and LGBTQ, the latter having suffered abuse and neglect, especially sexual abuse.

Homeless youth, contrary to myth, do not choose to be on the streets, and they are ten times more likely to die than non-homeless people their own age. Homeless children experience developmental delay.

To date, their cause is not part of the 2020 Democrat political agenda. But an unceasing demand for more resources for the illegals charging the border is. No one discusses a limit on the resources to be allocated to illegals -- to feed, house, and clothe them.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D, Ca) can grandstand before the klieg lights by grilling those responsible for homeland security and immigration about conditions at the border, but she will not seize the bully pulpit for the thousands of homeless living under the Oakland maze not far from where she was born and a few miles down the street from where she went to law school.

The conditions of both our veterans and vulnerable youth living on the streets do not rise to be considered as even talking points in the current conversations about how the society is to be improved by a change of administration in 2020. The focus is almost entirely on our compassion for the illegals overwhelming the border, the vast number of whom are economic migrants, not refugees.  

Oakland and Berkeley representative Barbara Lee (D) has been in Congress since 1988. She is an economic progressive, and she is strongly against deportation. But can you be against deportation while advocating for social services for your own poor who are living under highways?

Resources are finite. Solving the problems of one’s own poor -- who have grown in number since 1988 when almost no one lived under the maze -- should take precedence over the impossible task of rescuing the poor of Mexico and Central America, if not the world.

The truth is that the illegals are the latest trend in virtue signaling. My CEO acquaintance can sit with her friends in upscale San Francisco restaurants and talk about her compassion for the homeless and her political work for DACA while ignoring the plight of the people she practically steps over daily on Market Street.

Kamala Harris will demand more diapers and wipes for the children at the border while ignoring America’s own homeless under California’s freeways. Barbara Lee will tout her progressive credentials at the next election, but whatever her progressive ideology has done for Oakland and Berkeley’s impoverished, it seems neither to have touched the growing street population nor to have abated it.

Politics is not about finding solutions. It is about gesturing toward policies that will provide what the mass public thinks are solutions while mobilizing their votes.

If you want to see a meaningful change in both immigration and homeless policies, start inviting millions of middle-class professionals into America and give them quick licenses as doctors, lawyers, and accountants to compete with middle-class virtue signalers. Don’t invite poor people who will end up competing with America’s homeless for a warm grate on a pitiless Chicago winter night.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.