Who is Crossing?

The president has a skewed view of who is trying to enter the US.

Stephanie Leutert (Director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin) has a piece Lawfare that is worth a read for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the immigration issue:  Who’s Really Crossing the U.S. Border, and Why They’re Coming.

Some key info:

First off, while the current administration has tried to tie Central American migrants to MS-13, government data reveals that gang members crossing irregularly are the rare exceptions. Since the Trump administration took office, the Border Patrol has detected fewer gang members crossing irregularly than during the Obama administration. In FY2017, these detections amounted to 0.075 percent of the total number of migrants (228 MS-13 members out of 303,916 total migrants). When combined with MS-13’s rival, the Barrio 18 gang, the number rises only slightly to 0.095 percent. This is far from the “infestation” of violent gang members described by the president.

The current crisis hasn’t been caused by a sudden influx of migration, either. The peak in apprehensions of irregular migrants actually took place some 17 years ago, in FY2000. At that point, U.S. Border Patrol agents caught 1,643,679 migrants attempting to enter the United States without the appropriate papers, compared to 303,916 apprehensions in this past fiscal year. But this decreasing number of apprehensions should not be confused with a gentler, kinder approach to border security—in fact, just the opposite. Since 2001, the number of Border Patrol agents along the southwest border has nearly doubled from 9,147 agents to 16,605. Border fencing also increased: to date, there are 705 miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile long U.S.-Mexico border.

The face of migration has also changed. Back in 2000, Mexican nationals made up 98 percent of the total migrants and Central Americans (referring to Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran migrants) only one percent. Today, Central Americans make up closer to 50 percent.

The first paragraph is especially significant given that Trump is using fear of violent crime as a means of whipping up support from his base.  To hear the president and his supporters talk, we need tough immigration enforcement because he wants to protect us from MS13.  But, as noted above, the percentage of persons trying to cross the border without visas who are also associated with gangs in minuscule.  Instead, we are applying “zero tolerance” to many who are fleeing the violence of these gangs.

The whole piece is worth a read and is full of empirical information from a reliable source.

I will note that while reasonable people can disagree about what policies should be adopted in regards to immigration across our southern border, the basic facts are quite clear:  those who are crossing are not terrorists and violent criminals coming to do us harm.  Rather, they are overwhelmingly people simply trying to find a better life for themselves and their families and who tend to come to the US to work hard. To pretend, instead, that they represent those who seek to “invade” or “infest” is rhetorically irresponsible at best (and blatantly racist at worst).

And yes, Trump pretends like he is only talking about MS13 when he uses such language (as well as the “animals” comment).  His supporters pretend along with him. Well, since MS13 and other gang types make up 0.095% of those detected crossing he either doesn’t understand how low the numbers are or he is blatantly using a radical minority of all immigrants to tar all of them as a threat.

Meanwhile, the reality is that resources are limited, so the insistence on zero tolerance is hampering the ability to prosecute drug trafficking cases.  Via USAT, DOJ: Trump’s immigration crackdown ‘diverting’ resources from drug cases:

Federal prosecutors warned they were diverting resources from drug-smuggling cases in southern California to handle the flood of immigration charges brought on by the Trump administration’s border crackdown, records obtained by USA TODAY show.

Days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed prosecutors to bring charges against anyone who enters the United States illegally, a Justice Department supervisor in San Diego sent an email to border authorities warning that immigration cases “will occupy substantially more of our resources.” He wrote that the U.S. Attorney’s Office there was “diverting staff, both support and attorneys, accordingly.”

This is axiomatic: there are a finite number of employees and a finite number of hours in the day.  As such, more focus on one are means diverting resources to accommodate the policy directives.

Speaking of supporters, here is Mike Huckabee’s latest attempt at humor (which he insists has no racial overtones whatsoever):

 

 

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    I’d go with “blatantly using a radical minority of all immigrants to tar all of them as a threat,” myself. Which does not suggest that ignorance doesn’t play a large part in what Trump says and does. We know that he can’t and won’t read even short briefing papers, and that he refuses to listen to anyone who tries to tell him anything he doesn’t want to hear. Remember, this is the guy who’s stated repeatedly that he trusts his gut instincts more than he trusts experts in any particular field or even members of his own staff to provide him with credible information.

    It’s worth noting, too, in this context, that Trump brought Corey Lewandowski with him to Vegas to stump for Dean Heller, this just after Lewandowski gave a snide, mocking response to a report about a Down Syndrome child who’d been separated from her parents. (By the way, Sarah Palin is still awfully silent about this.) Again, I am predicting that Lewandowski will be John Kelly’s replacement. And God help us all.

  2. An Interested Party says:

    Mike Huckabee…he who was so offended when his daughter was asked to leave a restaurant that he accused the owners of that restaurant of having hate and bigotry and then turns around and tweets something like that? Hey failed presidential candidate, heal thyself of prejudice…meanwhile, it is evil to try to smear people trying to escape gang violence of being members of gangs themselves…

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  3. An Interested Party says:

    Leave it to Rick Wilson to tell it like it is…especially nice was this bit about that particular disgrace in the White House…

    Stephen Miller is so in love with his hate that he believed he was close to finally being able to beat someone up; to wit, screaming, terrified toddlers in cages. He spent a few days thumping his concave, 98-pound-weakling chest, hissing his delight at the political utility of highlighting the misery of refugee children but by the end of the week the architect of this stunningly nasty policy was reduced to muttering darkly about vengeance being his and licking his wounds.

  4. TM01 says:

    So they’re coming from shitholes?

    Also, the NRA is responsible for the deaths of all those children!

    It’s time to talk about common sense immigration control.

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  5. @TM01: Please note that under the Policies of this web site, commenters should refrain from the following:

    Any form of trolling, defined as comments that appear intended to send the discussion in a fruitless direction, including repeated raising of only tangentially related points.

    This a warning. If you cannot discuss the items in the post beyond repeating similar trolling attempts over and over, you will find your comments deleted and you may find yourself banned from the site.

    You are free to disagree and engage in conversation, but I have had it with your clear, unambiguous trolling efforts.

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  6. Andy says:

    It’s important to point out that the statistics cited are based on those who are caught or detected at the border. Transnational criminal gangs and their networks are much better at evading detection and have many more resources available than the typical border crosser. So the 0.01% is almost certainly lower than the actual figure, but the actual figure is probably still pretty small.

    Actual numbers in terms of total gang membership numbers and their border smuggling activities are unknown and almost impossible to estimate with any precision, but gang activity is likely to be a relatively small percentage of the total population trying to enter the US illegally.

  7. Kathy says:

    Trump and his cultists and apologists don’t care what kind of people are crossing illegally, they care only about what color they are.

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  8. @Andy:

    It’s important to point out that the statistics cited are based on those who are caught or detected at the border.

    Well, sure. But in this case the numbers are intended to analyze the policy in question–and the point of my post was to contrast what the policy is accomplishing with what Trump and his allies act like it is accomplishing.

    Bottom line: we are not facing hordes of MS13 coming across the southern border.

  9. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    These people are not White. So, they are surely to be related to crime in some way.

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  10. An Interested Party says:

    Wow!!!!!!!!! Where are these Republicans in today’s GOP…

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    test

  12. Mister Bluster says:
  13. Gustopher says:

    I’m sure Huckabee’s tweet is about how people in San Francisco get too many tattoos. Nothing racist at all — you’re the racist for assuming it’s racist.

  14. Kit says:

    reasonable people can disagree about what policies should be adopted in regards to immigration across our southern border

    Absolutely, but the litmus test, at least in my mind, involves how people are treated. Unfortunately, cruelty and humiliation are baked in to the current policy for the pleasure of it’s supporters. As @Lava Land says, in his clueless way, this is sick. We debase ourselves by pretending that anyone giving support to the current policies can be considered worthy of the label reasonable.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lava Land:

    do the crime do the time,

    Horsesh!t. First off, what crime? You mean the misdemeanor all first time undocumented crossers are charged with? So the next time you get a speeding ticket you think you should be hauled away and thrown in a jail, held incommunicado for weeks on end with no access to a lawyer, and have any children you were traveling with taken from you and sent to only god knows where?
    Second of all, seeking asylum is not against the law.
    As to,

    Don’t care what color

    You keep choking that chicken, but you aren’t fooling anybody here.

  16. @Kit:

    We debase ourselves by pretending that anyone giving support to the current policies can be considered worthy of the label reasonable.

    To be clear, I was not suggesting the currently policy was defensible or reasonable (as I hope I made quite clear here). I simply meant that there is a spectrum of reasonable disagreement about the border security policy.

  17. teve tory says:

    Don’t care what color as I live and was raised with all of them, do the crime do the time,

    Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor. Jared Kushner lying on his financial disclosure forms, multiple times, and trump signing fraudulent tax returns for his charity, multiple times, are felonies. I would love to see them do the time. Glad you support it.

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  18. @Lava Land: So, I guess you are a stickler about enforcing the law about persons seeking asylum?

  19. Kit says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    To be clear, I was not suggesting the currently policy was defensible or reasonable

    I didn’t mean to imply you were, and I should have been explicit about that.

  20. Franklin says:

    To be fair, I don’t think of of us want 300 gang members entering the country each year. But how many resources would it take to cut that number to zero? Or even half? It’s probably easier to increase law enforcement spending on gangs; if we can take more than 300 off the street for less cost than stopping 300 from entering the country, then that’s the more logical policy.

  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Everything Dennison does is based on lies.
    Taxes, Health Care, Tariffs, NoKo, education, environmental, immigration…name it.
    For that matter…the Republicans have been selling the lie of trickle-down economics for 35 years.

  22. Guarneri says:

    So what is the “correct” number of gang members entering? And what happened to the “if only one life is saved” mentality of the left? Rather situational it seems.

    “Rather, they are overwhelmingly people simply trying to find a better life for themselves and their families and who tend to come to the US to work hard.”

    Latent Nobel Laureates, I’ve heard. Too bad so few make any attempt to assimilate. Ever lived in Florida? They don’t pay much in taxes.

    “The first paragraph is especially significant given that Trump is using fear of violent crime as a means of whipping up support from his base.”

    Thank God Democrats only engage in level headed, fact based and dispassionate analysis.

    And by the way, when did it become our duty to become the repository of the victims of, dare I say, shixthole countries around the world? Who speaks for those legitimate US citizens unemployed or whose wages are depressed by these immigrants? Cut the crap of the moral high ground and just say it – this is politics pure and simple. Just look at video clips of Democrats disparaging immigration, from the Clintons, to Pelosi to Obama, when they were in charge.

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  23. @Guarneri:

    So what is the “correct” number of gang members entering?

    I hate to tell you, but no matter what we do, there will not be 100% control. As such, the question becomes one of cost/benefit. To pretend otherwise (and to ignore broader harms) is to believe in unicorns.

    Too bad so few make any attempt to assimilate. Ever lived in Florida? They don’t pay much in taxes.

    By “they” I assume you mean latino immigrants? If so, these are both false. The evidence for assimilation by the third generation is pretty clear (and what we have seen from immigrants groups over time. (If you want a cite, here’s one off the top of my head). The non-assimilation thing is pure BS.

    And they pay taxes. And they are also consumers, which is good for the economy.

    In regards to taxes, they actually pay into Social Security money they will never receive. From a SS Administration report:

    While unauthorized immigrants worked and contributed
    as much as $13 billion in payroll taxes to the OASDI program in 2010, only about $1 billion in benefit payments during 2010 are attributable to unauthorized work. Thus, we estimate that earnings by unauthorized immigrants result in a net positive effect on Social Security financial status generally, and that this effect contributed roughly $12 billion to the cash flow of the
    program for 2010. We estimate that future years willexperience a continuation of this positive impact on the trust funds.

    Thank God Democrats only engage in level headed, fact based and dispassionate analysis.

    If I stipulate, for the sake of argument, the horror that is Democratic rhetoric, that does not excuse or make right the president’s rhetoric. Two wrongs, as we all know, don’t make a right. Trump lying to gin up racial animus is pretty horrible. And if you are going to defend it, defend it. Don’t just say “what about the Dems?” (Also: you are making vague accusations. I am making specific ones).

    BTW, I do not speak for Democrats, but I am providing fact based arguments (in the post and here in this response). Where are your facts?

    And by the way, when did it become our duty to become the repository of the victims of, dare I say, shixthole countries around the world?

    You may be familiar with our national history of having essentially open borders. We have a big statue in New York with the following inscription:

    “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

    Odds are awfully good your ancestors came from some challenged location themselves.

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  24. @Guarneri: And in regards to Nobel laureates, ends up immigrants do win a lot of them: Immigrants Keep Winning Nobel Prizes.

    Now, is that an argument for a specific border policy? No. But, interesting nonetheless.

  25. teve tory says:

    @Franklin: A CNN report from 2011 tells me 1.4 million people in the US are in gangs. Now for a back-of-the-envelope calculation, what’s the turnover? How many join and leave per year, if that’s a stable number? IDK. My research program of watching every Law and Order episode ever made tells me gangs are full of youngish people. I’m going to guess the average gang member is in the gang for 5 years. In which case 280,000 are added and leave every year, as a rough estimate.

    If so, the number sneaking across the border represent ~1 out of 1,000 new gang members in a given year. 0.1%. How many billion dollars are we going to spend on that slice of the gang problem?

  26. teve tory says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: 100 years ago we were passing laws to keep the inferior Asian Stock out of America. Asian immigrants were legally discriminated against until 1965!

    These days Nobel Laureate Steven Chu advises Obama on science policy and Steve Bannon complains there are too many asian CEOs.

    Racism is for stupid people.

  27. @teve tory:

    Racism is for stupid people.

    Indeed.