We naïfs read in the Sunday, December 4, 2011 page one Washington Post story that “Arrests of illegal migrants on the US-Mexico border plummet” (By Nick Miroff and William Booth).
I guess if you have been following this issue at all (I made a discouraging visit to the Nogales, AZ area in January of this year), you might want to cheer slightly at this headline.
But the story—actually surprisingly balanced for WaPo—reveals that the headline is misleading to say the least. It begins:
“Arrests of illegal migrants trying to cross the southern U.S. border have plummeted to levels not seen since the early 1970s, according to tallies released by the Department of Homeland Security last week, a historic shift that could reshape the debate over immigration reform.
The Border Patrol apprehended 327,577 illegal crossers along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30, numbers not seen since Richard Nixon was president, and a precipitous drop from the peak in 2000, when 1.6 million unauthorized migrants were caught. More than 90 percent of the migrants apprehended on the southwest border are Mexican.
The number of illegal migrants arrested at the border has been dropping over the past few years but appears to be down by more than 25 percent this year.
Experts say that Border Patrol apprehensions are a useful marker for estimating the total flow of illegal migrants, though imprecise because the U.S. government has no idea how many are not caught. But coupled with census and labor data from both countries that show far fewer Mexicans coming to the United States and many returning home, it appears that the historic flood of Mexican migration north has slowed dramatically.
‘We have reached the point where the balance between Mexicans moving to the United States and those returning to Mexico is essentially zero,’ said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, whose conclusion was shared by many migration experts.
Such a steep drop in illegal crossings gives supporters of immigration reform ammunition to argue that now is a good time to tackle the issue.”
However, WAPO’s headline is undercut by it’s the article:
“The lower number of apprehensions supports the Obama administration’s contention that the border is more secure than ever—that the doubling of Border Patrol agents since 2004, along with hundreds of miles of new fence, cameras, lights, sensors and Predator drones, has helped slow the illegal flow northward.
“But those who say the border remains out of control can point to the fact that hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants still try to make the crossing every year”.
My January 2011 trip to the border certainly confirmed that POV—from the eyewitness accounts from the distressed ranchers, border patrol agents, reporters and local citizens along that still poorly-fenced border. The WAPO picture shows a recently constructed fence near Nogales. We saw that being erected. But much of that rugged terrain was wide open. Furthermore, when we drove a short distance outside the border city of Douglas AZ, for example, the “fence” deteriorated in a strand or two of barbed wire. My companions and I stepped across into Mexico for a photo op.
Then, of course, WAPO’s constant fallback: the sob stories
“At the Casa Betania migrant shelter in a rough section here in the sprawling border city of Mexicali, manager Jorge Verdugo has seen a steep decline in the number of ragged men who arrive each afternoon looking for a meal, a shower and a safe place to sleep.
Five years ago, the shelter’s 42 beds were always full. But on a recent afternoon, the place was mostly empty. At the other migrant shelter across town—for women and children—there was only one guest.
‘The change has been drastic,’ Verdugo said.
Data from Mexican surveys show that the amount of money sent home from the United States is falling, from a peak of $24 billion in 2007 to $21 billion last year, according to Mexico’s Central Bank.”
Now I am not one to pooh-pooh $3 billion. But surely $21 billion in foreign aid to Mexico, whose economy is doing quite well, is not to be belittled.
Then the WAPO article’s final anecdotal attempt to lull US citizens about the continuing unsolved crisis:
“At least one man at the Mexicali shelter, Juan Carlos Vela, 28, said he had decided Mexicali was far enough for him.
He had found a job making $75 a week in a brick factory, twice as much as the going wage for similar work down south in his home state of Durango, where he said there have been so many drug cartel gun battles lately ‘I can’t let my daughters outside.’
‘Mexicali seems pretty quiet; I like it here,’ Vela said. ‘Might as well forget about the American dream and get on with my life.’”
Yes, in this relatively posh city, life can be quite good. Maybe Mexicans should stay there!
When will our Federal Government really get serious about reform? Not until voters, and naïve journalists, wake up to the fact that big business has our government by the throat.
Donald A. Collins [email him], a free lance writer living in Washington, DC. , is a long-time board member of the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR). However, his views are his own.