Border Crossing Arrests at Historic Lows
It's enough to knock anyone over with a feather, who surmises from the political hoopla that we are faced with an unprecedented tsunami of brown people storming the border from San Diego to Nowheresville, Texas. Trump built a good part of his presidential campaign on it. Democrats seize on images of children separated from the adults who brought them here, not always their parents, and who sometimes are child traffickers, with almost a glee as they watch the emotional images drive Trump's poll numbers down.
As always, many truths get lost in a political circus. One truth is that, for all the hullabaloo, attempted illegal Mexican border crossings are at historic lows, according to arrest data from the Border Patrol. And the illegal immigrant population in the US has remained flat at about 10 million - about 3 percent of the population - since 2002.
There was a large up-spike in the illegal population starting in 1992, when Clinton passed a NAFTA deal which put small Mexican corn farmers out of business. The beneficiaries were companies like Monsanto, which went down and produced corn more cheaply than the small farmers could, and then bought their farms when they had to sell out. That in a nutshell is the cause of the Nineties spike in illegal immigrants in this country, not any desire to cross hundreds of miles of scorching desert in search of a welfare check.
Anyone who can read a graph can see off the bat that border arrests, despite record numbers of Border Patrol agents, have fallen off to 1970s levels. This does not a tsunami make. What it does make for is riveting prime time news, with peoples' lives hanging in the balance, which both sides can exploit to keep attention away from other things. Wars in the Middle East. The $22 trillion national debt, nearly double than when Obama took over. The talk about cutting your Social Security and Medicare.
Now the Dems are pointing out some things they should have pointed out long ago. Illegal immigrants don't commit violent crimes at rates any higher than citizens do, in fact, significantly lower. But hey, it's the year before a presidential election year, and Trump has staked everything on the xenophobic Wall Meme that appeals to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who thinks his job went overseas because of some of the most wretchedly desperate people on Earth.
Let's face it. Dumping on poor people is fun. You can say anything you want - Electrify the wall! Set up machine guns! - and they can't hit back. From the Trail of Tears and before, cruelty and hypocrisy have been the great American pastime.
There is no tsunami. Not even close. What there is, is more people coming from Central America than before, with their kids. Hellholes like Guatemala and El Salvador that the US helped create, no one more that the good old Gipper. Ronald Reagan stopped their revolutions by funding death squads and murderous counter-revolutionaries like the Contras in Nicaragua, once equating them to our "Founding Fathers."
With a take on the world like that, it's no wonder people are falling for this wall circus. If I were a corrupt politician, I'd be happy that it's working, but also shaking my head in dismay. As the great American journalist HL Mencken once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”