SALT LAKE CITY — The Republican mayor of El Paso, Texas, said in an interview Monday that the root of the immigration crisis in the United States is in the nation’s capitol.
“The symptom and the root cause is out of Washington, D.C.,” Dee Margo (R-Texas) said on “Rising,” a video news outlet run by The Hill.
Margo singled out 2008 legislation that he says made it easier for migrants to seek asylum at the southern border, which in turn has overwhelmed immigration enforcement resources.
“There was a bill passed at the end of 2008 called the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2008, and it was designed when there were unaccompanied minors coming from Central America through Mexico to the United States,” he said.
"There was a fear on our part, it's very altruistic on our part in the United States which it should be, that they would be picked up by Mexican cartels, and used as drug mules or in human trafficking," he said. "So we made it easier for those Central American nations to claim asylum, primarily for the children that were coming through, or the young people."
"It was also I think amended in 2014, but that gives them basically unfettered ability to come into the United States, and claim asylum," he added. "If you notice we're not having the problem with Mexico. There aren't Mexican immigrants coming north. It's only from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras."
There are other explanations for the decline in Mexican migration to the United States, a trend that has been steadily falling for the last decade, Heide Castaneda, associate professor at the University of South Florida, told the Deseret News in December.
Economics played a major role in that decline, she said, as the American economy tanked in 2008 and the Mexican economy improved, reducing the incentive for people to leave in the first place.
In fact, a 2015 Pew study concluded that in a historic shift, more Mexicans returned to their home country between 2009-2014 than entered the United States.
During the same period, increased political and economic instability in Central American countries — such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — caused an increase in the number of unauthorized immigrants seeking entry in the United States, increasing by 275,000 between 2007-2016, according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center.
President Donald Trump clashed with Margo on immigration earlier this year, days after Trump said used El Paso, Texas, as an example for why walls were effective in reducing crime.
"(El Paso) used to have extremely high rates of violent crime, one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities," Trump said. "Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities," he said.
After the speech, Margo pushed back, tweeting that “El Paso was never one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S.”
“We’ve had a fence for 10 years and it has impacted illegal immigration and curbed criminal activity,” Margo stated. “It is NOT the sole deterrent. Law enforcement in our community continues to keep us safe.”
Margo’s latest remarks come on the heels of an action-packed week on immigration policy in the Trump White House.
Last week, the president threatened to shut down the U.S. border with Mexico, saying that Mexico and other Central American countries were not doing enough to stem the tide of migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico.13 comments on this story
More recently, he also directed the State Department to stop sending aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Trump said last week that the Northern Triangle countries "set up" migrant caravans, according to CNN.
"We were paying them tremendous amounts of money. And we're not paying them anymore. Because they haven't done a thing for us. They set up these caravans," he reportedly said.