Perhaps it’s a variant of Mitt Romney’s notion of “self-deportation,” but President Trump’s tough talk on illegal immigration is discouraging the waves of illegal immigration even before the first brick or cinder block is laid in what he calls his “big, beautiful” wall on the border.
Attempted border crossings have dropped sharply since the first of the year, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly reported last week. In February, 23,589 migrants were stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border. That was the lowest figure for any month in five years, and was a 44 percent drop from the 42,504 caught in January. That’s 842 persons per day, according to Customs and Border Protection. That’s down by more than a third from February 2016.
These sharp decreases roughly correspond with President Obama’s departure from Washington and the arrival of President Trump. Coincidence? Hardly. Border Patrol officers, discouraged from enforcing the law during the Obama years, have long argued that the surging numbers of illegal migrants were the consequence of a lack of will in Washington to enforce the law. They insisted that strict enforcement would stem the flow, and now the new numbers prove it.
John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, calls the decline in numbers without precedent. “The early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters,” he says, “and that comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact.”
Note that he says “comprehensive immigration enforcement,” and not “comprehensive immigration reform.” The Border Patrol has been freed from crippling practices imposed by Mr. Obama, and that’s naturally making the border harder to cross. This in turn raises from $3,500 to $8,000 the price “coyotes,” or smugglers, typically charge to bring the illegals north, and that in turn discourages migrants willing and eager to break the law. “This trend is encouraging,” Mr. Kelly says, “because it means that many fewer people are putting themselves and their families at risk of exploitation, assault and injury by human traffickers and the physical dangers of the treacherous journey north.”
There are further indications that a new sheriff in town is making a difference. The number of unaccompanied illegal-migrant minors apprehended by the Border Patrol in February fell below 2,000, and the number of migrants fell from 16,000 in December, the last full month of the Obama administration, to 9,300 in January, and then to 3,124 in February.
Those are encouraging trend lines, and Mr. Kelly says he will continue to track the numbers in March, April and May when the crossings and apprehensions typically increase. As the apprehended illegals from Central America and Mexico return home and the message spreads to cities, towns and villages that Barack Obama’s welcome mat no longer waits at the border, Mr. Kelly expects “deterrence through perception” will further reduce the numbers.
Others agree. “Even floating the possibility of expanding detention at the border makes somebody less likely to come,” Faye Hipsman, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, tells The New York Times. This is good news for everyone, except for Democrats who want to use an open border to recruit prospective Democratic voters, and unscrupulous employers who are looking for cheap and easily abused labor.
It’s particularly good news for those who want to keep the light on for prospective immigrants who follow the law and the rules and get in line, as millions of immigrants before them, to arrive in a welcoming America.
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