Immigration skeptics are fond of portraying the southwestern border as lawless and violent, a sort of Spanish-accented version of Pakistan’s tribal areas. In this fantasy dystopia, cascades of illegal immigrants cross the frontier, running roughshod over outmanned and outgunned U.S. Border Patrol agents.
It’s a colorful narrative, designed to scare Americans while deflecting reform of the nation’s broken immigration system. How can we discuss sweeping change, let alone amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants, the purveyors of fear argue, while chaos reigns along the border?
But the lawless border portrayed by lawmakers such as Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, border state Republicans, is a fairy tale. Illegal border crossings have nose-dived to their lowest levels in many years and are projected to plunge even further. Many segments of the southwest border are so quiet that border patrol agents spend their days surveying barren landscapes devoid of activity.
What’s more, as a recent New York Times article illustrated, the shrinking demand to sneak across the border from Mexico is not only a function of America’s anemic economy, tougher state laws on illegal immigration or the 17,700 Border Patrol agents assigned there, nearly double the number in 2004.
In fact, such a broad array of factors is depressing the rate of illegal immigration from Mexico that even a surge in the American economy is not apt to drive the numbers of undocumented border crossers back up to the levels of the early- to mid-2000s, when a half million or more flooded into the country each year.
The southwest border is hardly watertight; few international land boundaries are. But all indications, including plummeting apprehensions by the beefed-up Border Patrol, are that illegal border crossings have been cut in half in the past five or six years.
— Washington Post