Trump Claims There Is a Crisis at the Border. What’s the Reality?

Good analysis of the numbers:

President Trump has frequently called the situation at the southern border with Mexico a crisis and insists that building his long-promised border wall will fix it. Here are some of Mr. Trump’s most common assertions of a crisis, and the reality of what we know about immigrants and the border.

“We can’t have people pouring into our country like they have over the last 10 years.”

THE REALITY Illegal border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades. In 2017, border-crossing apprehensions were at their lowest point since 1971.

Total number of arrests for illegally crossing the Mexican border

Undetected illegal border crossings have dropped at an even faster rate, from 851,000 in 2006 to approximately 62,000 in 2016, according to estimates by the Department of Homeland Security.

However, there is one group of migrants that is on the rise: families. A record number of families have tried to cross the border in recent months, overwhelming officials at the border and creating a new kind of humanitarian crisis.

Number of arrests for illegally crossing the Mexican border

Asylum claims have also jumped, with many migrant families telling officials that they fear returning to their home countries. Seeking asylum is one way to legally migrate to the United States, but only 21 percent of asylum claims were granted in 2018, and many cases can take years to be resolved.

“Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border.”

THE REALITY It is true that the majority of heroin enters the United States through the southern border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. But the D.E.A. also saysthat most heroin is brought into the country in vehicles entering through legal border crossings, not through the areas where walls are proposed or already exist.

Most drugs are seized at ports of entry, not along the open border

There are more than two dozen ports of entry along the southern border. Barriers are already present in Border Patrol sectors with the highest volumes of heroin seizures.

“Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now.”

THE REALITY It is difficult to assess the president’s claims that illegal immigration leads to more crime because few law enforcement agencies release crime data that includes immigration status. However, several studies have found no link between immigration and crime, and some have found lower crime rates among immigrants.

Texas, which has the longest border with Mexico and has one of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants of any state, keeps track of immigration status as part of its crime data. The Cato Institute, a libertarian research center, analyzed the Texas data in a 2015 study and found that the rate of crime among undocumented immigrants was generally lower than among native-born Americans.

Conviction rates are lower for immigrant populations in Texas

Some critics of the study argued that the reason undocumented immigrant conviction rates were low was because immigrants were deported after they served their sentences, which prevented them from committing another crime in the United States, reducing their rate of crime relative to native-born Americans.

Alex Nowrasteh, senior immigration policy analyst at the institute, addressed the complaint by comparing first-time criminal conviction rates among undocumented immigrants in Texas and native-born Americans in Texas. He found that undocumented immigrants still committed crimes at a rate “32 percent below that of native-born Americans.”

President Trump frequently tells the stories of Americans who have been killed by undocumented immigrants as examples of criminal behavior. These terrible crimes have happened, but there is no comprehensive data that shows whether these killings are happening at crisis levels.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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