Continued Republican claims about an unsecure border — including recent fearmongering about a possible ISIS infiltration from Presidential candidate Rand Paul — just got doused with a cold bucket of reality.
In a front page story earlier this week, the Washington Post’s Jerry Markon writes that “illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades,” with the number of undocumented immigrants in America having declined in recent years.
2016’s “Border Security First” Republicans should be applauding the news front and center, but don’t expect them to anytime soon.
As we noted yesterday, most GOP candidates — with the exception of Sen. Lindsey Graham — have adopted this “border first” canard in hope that they can avoid addressing what to do about the millions of undocumented immigrants who have called America their home.
With cold hard facts staring them in the face, Republicans could finally admit that the border is the most secure it’s been in decades. But in doing so, it would open up a conversation about a humane solution for the 11 million, and that’s something GOP candidates hungry for primary voters just can’t bear to do.
In a round-up below, bloggers and journalists highlight Markon’s piece and the wall of silence from “Border Security First” GOP candidates as immigration is set to take center-stage in the 2016 Presidential election.
For months, congressional Republicans have blocked bipartisan, comprehensive solutions by sticking to knee-jerk rhetoric: Congress can’t even think about working constructively on reform until the White House starts taking border security seriously.
But the argument has long been based on ignorance – the Obama administration has taken border security to levels the Bush/Cheney administration never even considered. The results, for those who choose to care, are undeniable.
So where’s the accompanying shift in Republican rhetoric? Where’s the acknowledgement from far-right ideologues that their demands have, for all intents and purposes, already been met? Where are the new talking points, revised to reflect some semblance of reality?
If there’s one thing the Republicans running for president can agree on when it comes to immigration, it’s that we need to “secure the border.” After all, we just let people stream across our undefended frontiers, driving the population of undocumented immigrants ever higher! As it happens, that’s completely at odds with reality — but you wouldn’t know it from listening to the candidates.
Here’s the truth.
First, spending on border security has exploded in the last decade and a half. In 2000, we spent just over a billion dollars on the Border Patrol; by last year the figure had more than tripled. In 2000 there were fewer than 10,000 Border Patrol agents; today there are more than twice as many. We spend billions more on other aspects of border security, and though it’s true that in theory we could erect a fence across every inch of the border with Mexico, it’s much harder to walk across it today than it used to be.
Second, if you’re worried about the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States, you should take heart that it’s dropping. As The Washington Post reported on Wednesday:
[E]vidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about one million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.
That’s still a lot of people, of course. But you probably won’t hear much about those facts from Republicans who are trying to appeal to their party’s base with tough talk about border security.
Even conservative media can’t deny the facts. Townhall’s Linda Chavez bemoans the lack of truth from GOP candidates in the name of political expedience:
I know it will come as a shock to most conservatives, but far fewer people are sneaking into the country across our southern border than at any time in recent memory. At the height of the illegal immigration crisis in 2000, 1.6 million illegal immigrants entered the U.S. Since 2012, the numbers are down to about 400,000 — and they’ve gone down so far this fiscal year by another 28 percent over last year.
That’s good news, but good news doesn’t energize the base nearly as effectively as fear. Instead of embracing the facts that illegal immigration is down to a decades-long low — by one measure lower than it has been in more than 40 years — many conservatives still fret about an illegal invasion that threatens our very way of life.
We have more than doubled our number of border agents to more than 18,000 now. We spend more on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the Office of Biometric Identity Management — some $16.2 billion last year — than we do on all other federal criminal law enforcement combined, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement, Secret Service, Federal Marshal Service, and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
But don’t expect to hear these facts from the fear mongers. It’s hard to motivate people with good news, and it’s far easier to try to scare them into giving or going to the polls.
Additionally, Greg Sargent highlighted Jeb Bush bemoaning the lack of political courage on immigration from his fellow Republicans. As Sargent writes, Bush could take a dose of his own medicine and come clean about the border to other Republicans and conservative audiences:
But this morning it was reported that the flow of illegal immigration is at its lowest point in a very long time. Of course, among many GOP primary voters, it is a given that President Obama has thrown open the border to the hordes. One way Bush could really deliver a dose of realism on this issue — or meaningfully show more courage than his rivals — is to acknowledge the real state of border security today. In light of his comments about Walker and Rubio, he should also be pressed to clarify whether he really thinks some elusive state of absolute border security must be achieved — and if so, how that might be defined — before any legalization scheme can be put in place. If not, he should forthrightly clarify that he agrees we need a comprehensive solution that strives for both.