Control of our Border and “The Wall”

I am firmly against illegal entry into the United States.

Control of our southern border is in the news every day now.  It seems the number of people being apprehended illegally entering our country from the south is reaching numbers not seen since 2006.  Heated discussions for and against a wall to prevent entry from the south has been ongoing for some time and the rhetoric is reaching hysteria.  It is difficult to find reasoned discussions about the current northward migration.  

The number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States has dropped to the 2004 level, and Mexicans are no longer a majority of this population according to a Pew Research study dated June 12, 2019.  Unauthorized Mexican immigrants numbers have decreased since 2007 while others have increased.

The Bracero Program was a series of laws and agreements with Mexico.  It was active from 1942 - 1964.  It brought more than 4 million people, as temporary workers, into the United States. At the end of the Bracero Program there remained a need for laboring jobs which often were not filled by U.S citizens.  Workers continued coming to the United States, although illegally, for the same economic reasons as previously.  They needed work and there were jobs across the border.  Temporary Foreign Worker programs still exist though many are not the manual laborers that were in the majority during the Bracero program.

The current overload of our capacity to control and process those who come to our southern border is caused primarily by people from Central America seeking asylum and are first attempting to enter legally at ports of entry.  When turned away they may be filling the ranks of those apprehended crossing the border illegally. These people are bringing families or sending their children and are applying for entry for humanitarian reasons.  Because of political upheaval in some of the central american countries, some if not all of these people might be classified as refugees.  People from west Africa and other countries are also showing up at our southern borders seeking asylum. 

The reasons these people are attempting to enter the U.S.A. are not simply economic as are most of those from Mexico.  According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, apprehensions of Central Americans from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras rose again in May to 444,509, so far this fiscal year (FY2019). Most are family units.

According to the Cato Institute, in 2017 Illegal immigrant incarceration rates are about half those of native born Americans.  In the same year, legal immigrant incarceration rates are half that of illegal immigrants.   This suggests the illegals are not a significant source of criminal activity.

I am firmly against illegal entry into this country.  But given the dramatic shift in the numbers of central americans showing up at our door seeking asylum and our inability to process requests for asylum, it is clear that we have a problem that is no longer manageable without policy change.  A relatively small numbers of  Mexicans cross for better jobs.  The CATO Institute reports the number of Mexicans coming into the country has decreased significantly since 2014 .   Enter those, in much larger numbers, from central America who are apparently literally running for their lives.  

Will a wall resolve the problem?  Maybe partially.  It won’t fix the systemic problem we face dealing with increasing numbers of those seeking legal asylum.

Do we have a border problem worth the expenditure of up to $60 billion plus annual maintenance? (  If illegal activity is the criteria the answer is no.  Are there other expenses involved?  Yes but there seems no solution to that at the moment.

Should we  have a system that can timely deal with the requests for asylum or prevent the need for those requests?  I think so.

   Do we need to find international solutions to permit these people to stay and live in safety in their native countries?  This seems like the best solution.

The United States has bent the will of other nations for economic and political reasons.  Can’t we do so for humanitarian reasons in countries where most of those applying for asylum originate?

We, the United States, refused to allow the landing of a ship in in 1939.  Most of the ship’s 937 passengers were Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany.  Nearly a third of the passengers on the MS St. Louis were murdered when they returned to Europe.  I know the problems in central America are not the same.  But I am certain that those who sent the MS St. Louis back to Europe had no idea that they were sending many to their death.

This issue is far from simple.  I have no idea what the solution may be.  I do know there is a problem that is larger than a few Mexican citizens crossing the Rio Grande without authorization.  Our system was designed for and did a reasonable job of dealing with that problem.  Statistics show that the numbers of border apprehensions are now at the level of 2006.  If that is the case the system in place should work as it seemed to work during the interval between 2006 and now, with fewer apprehensions.  Clearly it does not.

Here are some of the articles I read while writing this.  There are more available.

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