Immigration Executive Order – Southern Border

The White House has published the full text of its executive order related to illegal immigration at the Southern border, titled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements. Feel free to peruse the document via the provided link, if so desired. I want to draw attention to a couple of important portions of the document.

Section 1.  Purpose.  Border security is critically important to the national security of the United States.  Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety.  Such aliens have not been identified or inspected by Federal immigration officers to determine their admissibility to the United States.  The recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico has placed a significant strain on Federal resources and overwhelmed agencies charged with border security and immigration enforcement, as well as the local communities into which many of the aliens are placed.

According to Pew Research examination of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, the surge in the latter part of 2016 is attributable to an increase in family units crossing the border. These were largely not Mexicans but people from Central American countries transiting Mexico to escape political and economic instability and rampant crime in their home countries. That’s important context for the discussion of how to deal with illegal immigration. Pew also notes that illegal immigration peaked in 2007 and has decreased slightly since then.

Transnational criminal organizations operate sophisticated drug- and human-trafficking networks and smuggling operations on both sides of the southern border, contributing to a significant increase in violent crime and United States deaths from dangerous drugs.  Among those who illegally enter are those who seek to harm Americans through acts of terror or criminal conduct.  Continued illegal immigration presents a clear and present danger to the interests of the United States.

Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) operate sophisticated drug- and human-trafficking networks all over the world. This includes at the Southern border, for certain. The vagueness of this statement and the dearth of consolidated, publicly available data on the subject make it difficult to assess the extent to which these organization impact violence and drug-related deaths. Certainly violent gangs commit violence, and drugs cause deaths, but to what extent and over what period of time are violence and deaths directly attributable to TCOs, and how much of the TCOs efforts are through illegal immigrants as opposed to legal immigrants or even citizens? We don’t seem to have that data available, so the statement is an unverifiable assertion. More importantly, what percentage of illegal immigrants are participants in criminal activity? Politifact recently provided an estimate that put the rate of incarceration for immigrant males between 18 and 39 to be about half the rate of incarceration for native-born citizens (1.6% vs 3.3%, respectively). That is still vague as “immigrants” includes both legal and illegal. But, based on the limited data that we have, it is not clear that illegal immigration is a “clear and present danger” any more so than native public safety concerns.

Federal immigration law both imposes the responsibility and provides the means for the Federal Government, in cooperation with border States, to secure the Nation’s southern border.  Although Federal immigration law provides a robust framework for Federal-State partnership in enforcing our immigration laws ,  and the Congress has authorized and provided appropriations to secure our borders ,  the Federal Government has failed to discharge this basic sovereign responsibility.

To say that the Federal Government failed to discharge this responsibility is false, unless there is a specific metric that the government failed to attain. The Executive Order makes no reference to any specific metric, so the charge is clearly false. The Department of Homeland Security, through its components such as CBP, Citizenship and Immigration services (CIS), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and in concert with the FBO and State Department, have busily steadfastly defended the nations borders and ports of entry from illegal immigration to the maximum extent possible. The numbers of deportations steadily increased from 2002 to 2013, indicative of aggressive efforts to “discharge this basic sovereign responsibility.”

The remainder of the document deals with specific courses of action to remedy identified issues. Without addressing each one in detail, it is fair to say that any effort to remedy a problem that was incorrectly identified is unlikely to achieve the desired result. As long as or executive efforts are predicated on falsehood, any recommendations will necessarily fail to address the proper underlying issues.

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