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Opinion Never mind Biden in El Paso. The real story is Polis in Colorado.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis at an election watch party in Denver on Nov. 8. He won a second term. (David Zalubowski/AP)
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Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent of National Review.

Heading to Mexico, President Biden stopped for a few hours in El Paso on Sunday, meeting with border officials and migrant-services providers. Also over the weekend, a couple states to the north, Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, was caving to irate fellow Democrats and abandoning his practice of using charter buses to send migrants, primarily asylum seekers from Venezuela, to New York and Chicago.

You probably didn’t hear nearly as much about Polis’s busing policy as you did about the actions of a trio of Republican governors: Florida’s Ron DeSantis airlifting migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and Texas’s Greg Abbott and Arizona’s Doug Ducey (before he left office on Jan. 2) busing them to New York and D.C.

It’s fair to wonder whether some people didn’t want to talk about or draw attention to a “good” Democratic governor busing migrants to big cities in blue states the way those “bad” Republican governors did. Acknowledging it might mean those Republicans’ decisions weren’t being made simply out of xenophobic malice — that maybe some states and localities really were seeing their resources stretched to the limit by the seemingly endless waves of migrants.

For what it’s worth, before his capitulation on Saturday, Polis insisted that what he was doing was completely different from what Republicans were doing. He said Colorado’s state government wasn’t forcing anyone to leave and extended invitations to everyone to stay, and that “the state is working with culturally competent navigators to ensure that each individual is voluntarily making their decision.”

Polis emphasized that about 70 percent of the migrants arriving in Denver didn’t see Colorado as their final destination, and the aim was to match them with family members, friends and services when they reached Chicago and New York.

But the Democratic mayors of those cities didn’t see a difference. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot denounced Polis’s move, declaring in a statement to Politico, “It is simply inhumane for any governor, whether Republican or Democrat, to address this challenge by giving these poor, traumatized migrants a one-way ticket out of town and washing their hands of the matter at our literal and figurative expense. For shame.”

New York Mayor Eric Adams concurred. “Her remarks, do I agree with them? You’re damn right. You’re damn right I do. For the governor of Colorado to say that I’m going to push the problem to the city and didn’t even notify us. Everyone knows what we’re going through.” He added, “At one time we had to deal with Republican governors sending migrants to New York. Now we’re dealing with Democratic governors sending migrants to New York.”

The Post's View: Congress left Biden little choice on the border

Not anymore. After a “very productive conversation” with both mayors — meaning he got an earful — Polis said he’d stop the busing program.

But the point remains: With Democratic mayors denouncing a Democratic governor in the same tone they had reserved for Republicans, it’s time to toss aside the simplistic narrative of big, mean Republican governors shipping migrants elsewhere out of cruelty.

Lots of places in the country are dealing with more migrants and asylum seekers than they can reasonably handle. The amount of shelters, aid and resources is finite, and the waves keep coming.

One of the more frustrating and revealing moments of this entire mess of migrant-moving came in September when D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) declared, “We’re not a border town. We don’t have an infrastructure to handle this type of and level of immigration to our city. … We don’t have the ability. We’re not Texas.” As if communities in the Lone Star State are brimming with excess infrastructure and just waiting to host thousands of migrants at a time.

Did I say thousands? That basically describes the daily arrivals. In fiscal 2022, a record 2.76 million undocumented migrants crossed the southern border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, breaking the previous year’s record by more than 1 million. Only about half were being rapidly expelled during that period, leaving well over 1 million on this side of the border.

Almost no place in the United States is well-equipped to handle, indefinitely, that many people needing that much help. So no, busing migrants from Texas, Arizona or Colorado to New York, Chicago or D.C. isn’t fair to those cities, which have more than enough problems as it is. But it also isn’t fair to say to those border states and Western states, “The migrants are your problem. You guys pay to take care of them.”

Before his U-turn, Polis released a statement saying, “States and cities cannot continue to bear this burden alone and Congress needs to finally step up — we need an immediate route to work permits, and to finally enact better border security and immigration reform.”

Better border security is only one piece of the puzzle of dealing with illegal immigration, asylum seekers and the waves of migrants at the southern border. But it is an essential piece, and the fact that Democrats are publicly warring with other Democrats over this subject ought to be sufficient motivation to spur Biden and his team to see if a bipartisan deal can be reached with the new Congress. With luck, what Biden saw in El Paso will add to the sense of urgency.