Even without a border wall or extra Border Patrol agents, illegal immigration has plummeted since Donald Trump’s inauguration. The change is not a little, it is a lot (see here | here for comparisons of now and under Obama).
As most of the focus has been on Trump’s rhetoric and Jeff Sessions and John Kelly energizing Justice and Homeland Security to do their freakin jobs, the Trump administration has scored a signal success with huge long term implications.
For many years illegal immigration was a non-problem. That is because the majority of illegal immigration was represented by a flow of single men out of Mexico during agricultural seasons and they mainly returned to Mexico when the work was over. They were migrant laborers whose objective was to improve their life in Mexico by seasonal work in the US. At some point the pattern changed and families started crossing the border with the intent to stay in the United States.
Over the past few years, we have seen the chaos of the Obama-induced open border that attracted unaccompanied minors. That is changing.
The victory was announced last week by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which released figures showing a 93 percent drop since December of parents and children caught trying to cross the Mexico border illegally.
In December, 16,000 parents and children were apprehended; in March, a month in which immigration typically increases because of temperate weather, the number was just over 1,100.
It was a remarkable decline – steeper than the 72 percent drop in overall apprehensions – but for eight DHS officials interviewed by Reuters it was not surprising.
Trump has spoken about the need to crack down broadly on all illegal immigrants. But, internally, according to the DHS officials familiar with the department’s strategy, his administration has focused on one immigrant group more than others: women with children, the fastest growing demographic of illegal immigrants. This planning has not been previously reported.
In the months since Trump’s inauguration, DHS has rolled out a range of policies aimed at discouraging women from attempting to cross the border, including tougher initial hurdles for asylum claims and the threat of prosecuting parents if they hire smugglers to get their families across the border.
The department has also floated proposals such as separating women and children at the border.
DHS Secretary John Kelly told a Senate hearing on April 5 that the sharp drop in illegal immigration, especially among women and children, was due to Trump’s tough policies.
To date, it has been the threat of new policies rather than their implementation that has suppressed family migration.
Most interestingly is the role public education campaigns have played.
For months, Central Americans had heard about Trump’s get-tough policies. And public service announcements on radio and television presented bleak pictures of what awaited those who traveled north. Some of the ads were funded by the United States, others by United Nations agencies and regional governments.
The article also points out that the policies were the result of brainstorming by Congressional staffers and legal immigration advocates. After Trump was inaugurated, some key policy positions in DHS were filled by people who had been part of the brainstorming group. Once Trump was inaugurated and after John Kelly was on board they began to implement the policies they believed would work:
On Jan. 25, five days after taking office, Trump issued an executive order ending “catch and release.” (A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said the agency still releases most women and children in compliance with the federal court order.)
A week later, in a town hall with U.S. Customs and Immigration Services officers, Chief Asylum Officer John Lafferty outlined the possibility of separating women and children in a semi-public setting for the first time, according to notes of the meeting seen by Reuters.
For more than a month after that meeting, the proposal did not leak, but after Reuters broke news of it in early March, Kelly confirmed that it was under consideration. Democratic members of Congress blasted the proposal, and within days it had made headlines across Mexico and Central America.
That month, the number of children traveling with guardians apprehended at the border fell to one-third of what it had been in February.
As I pointed out earlier today, simply enforcing existing laws is enough to make the illegal immigration problem a non-issue. Without a magnet of free education and welfare benefits and the near guarantee that you will be left alone, most would-be illegals are opting to stay home.
Ironically, if George Bush had had the moral courage to pursue this kind of a strategy he would have been able to sell immigration reform. Equally ironic, Donald Trump, the guy who ran on building The Wall, is going to be the best positioned to actually change our immigration system for the better and he did it by just following the law.