President Trump is right, there is a crisis at the border. But not the one he's focused on.
And he doesn’t need questionable statistics to sell the idea, as he used during Tuesday evening’s prime time address. Exaggeration gets in the way of the actual crisis and demonstrably hurts the chances of Congress compromising on immigration reform and finding a reasonable path forward to fully fund the government.
The truth can and should speak for itself, unhindered by hyperbole, and the truth alone ought to be enough to rally the country’s lawmakers around principles of security, order and compassion.
Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency show a marginal number of annual border apprehensions in recent years, roughly 400,000. Compare that to the 1.6 million apprehensions in 2000. Numbers probably tapered off from a mixture of increased deportations and poor economic times. President Obama deported about 3 million illegal immigrants, whereas the Bush administration deported 2 million. Deportations recorded for 2016 are slightly higher than those in 2015.
Nevertheless, that still means hundreds of thousands of immigrants are trying to enter the United States each year through the southern border, and the majority of those apprehended at the border are not from Mexico, according to Pew Research Center.
Incidents of illegal immigrant violence and crime often make news, but studies continue to confirm immigration does not correlate with increased crime. In fact, immigrants are more likely to be the victims of crime.
So when President Trump declares “Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system,” he’s right, and that is the crux of the crisis at the border. Family migration has increased dramatically in recent years, flooding border personnel and infrastructure with more women and children than at any time since the U.S. started monitoring such statistics.
Family units now account for a third of all border apprehensions, according to Pew, and 136,000 family members were detained by border agents in 2018.
Resources can’t handle the influx. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told a congressional committee in December that “the infrastructure is not compatible” with the new makeup of migrants. Everyone who comes to the border deserves fair treatment and, if they are seeking asylum, quick processing. That isn’t happening.
The situation at the border is unstable, and every lawmaker should be able to agree that delaying action continues to hurt families. Unfortunately, the message, once embraced by all parties, has been tangled up in political posturing and divisive rhetoric.27 comments on this story
Judging from most analyses, the president’s speech, followed by a rebuttal from Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did little or nothing to sway public opinion about the need for a wall along the southern border or the potential for declaring a national emergency to unilaterally build the impediment. The two speeches may have energized party bases, but that only makes compromise harder.
The administration must not get lost in its own rhetoric if it is to lead out on its immigration plans, and Congress must not take disagreement as an excuse for inaction.
America is healthier, safer and more compassionate when truth governs action. It’s time for Washington to pull back the curtain and see clearly what’s at stake.