JOHN DERBYSHIRE: “The City We Knew, We’re About To Lose.” Why NYC Mayor Adams Was So Wrong About Immigration’s Impact
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[Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively on]

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams is feeling the heat being generated by the tens of thousands of illegal aliens pouring into his city, causing excruciating administrative and budgetary dilemmas for the city government. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for New Yorkers. In fact it’s hard not to laugh at the fools.

They have brought these misfortunes on themselves by voting for an Open Borders party to run the federal government and for local politicians who cherish New York as a Sanctuary City with a local ordinance guaranteeing sheltered accommodation to anyone who asks for it.

It is, though, interesting to speculate how a city with a high proportion of very well-educated voters—academics, intellectuals, professionals, and successful business people—how such a city gets itself into such a mess. I don’t have an answer, but I think I’ve identified some contributing factors.

Here is Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City, speaking on Wednesday evening this week to what the New York Times described as ”a town hall-style gathering in Manhattan” [In Escalation, Adams Says Migrant Crisis ‘Will Destroy New York City’ by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, September 7, 2023]. The subject was the mighty flood of illegal aliens into his city.

[Clip: And let me tell you something, New Yorkers. Never in my life have I had a problem that I could not see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this. I don’t see an ending to this.

This issue will destroy New York City, destroy New York City. We’re getting ten thousand migrants [a.k.a. illegal infiltrators] a month. One time we were just getting Venezuela; now we’re getting Ecuador, we’re getting Russian-speaking coming through Mexico, now we’re getting Western Africa. Now we’re getting people from all over the globe have made their minds up that they’re going to come through the Southern part of the border and come into New York City. And everyone is saying it’s New York City’s problem.

Every community in this city is going to be impacted. Now the twelve billion dollar deficit that we’re going to have to cut … every service in the city is going to be impacted. All of us.

So I say to you as I turn it over to you: This is some, some of the most educated, some of the most knowledgeable, probably more of my commissioners and deputy commissioners and chiefs live in this community. So as you asked me a question about migrants, tell me what role you play. How many of you organized to stop what they’re doing to us? How many of you were part of the movement to say: ”We’re seeing what this mayor is trying to do, and they’re destroying New York City.”

It’s gonna come to your neighborhoods. All of us are going to be impacted by this. I said it last year when we had fifteen thousand; I’m telling you now, with a hundred and ten thousand: The city we knew, we’re about to lose.

And we’re all in this together, all of us. Staten Island said: ”Send ’em out to Manhattan.” Manhattan is saying: ”Send ’em out to Queens.” Queens is saying: ”Send ’em out to Brooklyn.” No! It’s not the game we can play. [Entire Video, hosted on Twitter]

I can’t resist reminding you again, as I did on August 18, that this is the mayor who, just over a year ago—August 19th 2022—announced Project Open Arms. Quote from him back then: ”Our city has been, and will always be, a city of immigrants that welcomes newcomers with open arms” [Adams Administration Announces ’Project Open Arms,’ Comprehensive Support Plan to Meet Educational Needs of Families Seeking Asylum,, August 19, 2022].

Last week, I railed at Mayor Adams’ stupidity and innumeracy. So … is there anything new to say?

Possibly. In that segment last week I noted that the stupidity and innumeracy is international, or at any rate transatlantic. The U.K. is well-stocked with clones of Mayor Adams.

That brought an article in the Aporia online magazine back in February, posted by Andrew Collingwood, a British writer.

Collingwood walks us through a very interesting history: the history of dramatic under-estimation by government authorities of the results—that is, the number of people coming in—the results of opening the immigration doors:

For the last three-quarters of a century, British governments have consistently underestimated the likely scale of future immigration—and to a risible degree. In 1948, amid accelerating changes to Britain’s relationship with its empire, Parliament passed the British Nationality Act, which put British subjects within the UK’s Dominions and Commonwealth on equal footing to those in the British Isles. In other words, somebody born in Kingston, Jamaica had by law as much right to live and work in Britain as somebody born in Kingston-upon-Thames.

It seems to have come as a shock to Members of Parliament that a person living in crushing third-world poverty might see value in moving to one of the richest and safest nations on earth. The Cabinet Papers, a collection of National Archive reviews of government documents, show that, rather as with the small boat crossings of the Channel, what started as a trickle soon developed into a deluge. For the five years after the passing of the Act, “immigration from colonies remained at no more than 2,000 per year. This increased in 1954 and had reached over 135,000 by 1961.” [Links in original.]

Why can’t the UK stop migration? by Andrew Collingwood, Aporia Magazine, February 16, 2023

As we shall see, ”word gets around” is one of the most powerful driving forces of migration.

Collingwood then comments on some milestones in U.K. immigration policy.

He pauses first at the year 2004, when a bunch of poor, mostly ex-Soviet countries were admitted to the European Union. Britain’s government estimated that from five to thirteen thousand people a year from these countries would move to the U.K. The actual number was seventy-two thousand a year.

Forward ten years to 2014, when Romanians and Bulgarians got migration rights. Numbers from those countries, the relevant British government committee predicted, would be at most twenty thousand a year. By 2017 the actual number was running at ninety thousand a year.

And so on. Yes, the stupidity is transatlantic, and goes back at least seventy-five years.

I can now state with confidence Derbyshire’s Law of Under-Estimation.

When, in America or Britain, some relaxation of immigration rules is proposed, the ex post increase in incoming numbers will be some large multiple of the ex ante estimates offered by the authorities.

Human nature being what it regrettably is, these repeated under-estimations are commonly attributed by observers on the patriot side of the issue to malice. Those absurd under-estimates, people say, were deliberate, meant to bamboozle us so that the demographic revolution desired by the enemy could proceed.

Certainly there was some of that. The great flood of immigrants to the U.K. during Tony Blair’s administration (1997-2007), of which Collingwood’s 2004 example was just one component, was indeed driven in part by malice. Andrew Neather, a former adviser and speech writer on Blair’s team, spilled the beans in October 2009 by telling Brits that the aim of Blair’s immigration strategy, which he had helped to devise, was to ”rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date [How Labour threw open doors to mass migration in secret plot to make a multicultural UK, by James Slack, Daily Mail, February 10,2010].

Undoubtedly there are similar motives in play among our own immigration boosters.

I doubt that they fully explain Derbyshire’s Law of Under-Estimation, though. Those examples from the 1940s and 1950s cited by Andrew Collingwood long predated modern anti-white Progressivism. Sentimentality about the British Empire was more of a factor; and it was widespread, not just the province of a malicious faction.

So what does explain Derbyshire’s Law and the quandary that Mayor Eric Adams finds himself in? I have been saying ”stupidity” and ”innumeracy,” but I don’t think those nouns capture all of the problem.

Re-quote from Andrew Collingwood:

It seems to have come as a shock to Members of Parliament that a person living in crushing Third-World poverty might see value in moving to one of the richest and safest nations on earth.

There were not many Nobel Prize winners in the early-1950s British parliament (just one in the House of Commons, I think). There weren’t many dunces either, though. Members of Parliament were ordinary citizens of average IQ—probably a bit above average.

As Collingwood tells us, the problem wasn’t intelligence, it was imagination: the imagination to understand what drives a person to leave his familiar native place and go settle in a far country with different manners and language.

Just pause to reflect for a moment on this question: How likely is it that New York Mayor Eric Adams is a man of much imagination?

So no, it’s not commonplace stupidity. It’s more a partial blindness to things much outside one’s own direct experience.

What about innumeracy? That one I’ll stick firmly with. Hunter-gatherers in the Amazon rain forest are said to count thus: one, two, many. A surprising number of citizens in the developed world have not advanced much further than that.

So even if you remove agents of deliberate malice from the ranks of our immigration policy makers, you are still left with legions of Eric Adams types: people of average intelligence to whom the world beyond our shores is not all that different from the world within them, and is populated by a few thousand people here or there, some hundreds of whom might want to come live here.

All right: I’m a numbers geek; at any rate more numerate than the average. (This was written on the 28,587th day of my life. Next Tuesday is a prime number!)

And I’ve knocked around the world considerably and read a lot of imaginative fiction.

So I’m a snob; so sue me.

But I was right about “moderate” Mayor Adams; and I was right about New York State’s elected officials disgraceful silence on consequences of the Biden Rush:

As the stupidity and lawlessness mount, the silence of New York State’s leading politicians becomes ever more deafening. Governor Hochul, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand: What have they had to say or propose about the issue? Nothing, zip, zilch, riennichtsnada, ничево. Not a word.

Great leadership there in the Empire State. For God’s sake, who votes for these worthless seat-warmers?



John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire’s writings at can do so here.

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