Tuesday, April 09, 2019

A Trump Immigration Diversion

President Donald Trump has

once again insisted the US immigration system was overburdened and illegal border crossings must be stopped on a visit to the US-Mexico border in California.

Trump traveled to Calexico, California, on Friday to view a section of the border barrier and participate in a roundtable on immigration.

“There is indeed an emergency on our southern border,” Trump said at the briefing, adding that there had been a sharp uptick in illegal crossings. “It’s a colossal surge, and it’s overwhelming our immigration system. We can’t take you any more. Our country is full.”

Maybe not quite so full. The New York Times notes

In smaller cities and rural areas, demographic decline is a fundamental fact of life. A recent study by the Economic Innovation Group found that 80 percent of American counties, with a combined population of 149 million, saw a decline in their number of prime working-age adults from 2007 to 2017.

Addressing the same topic, Ezra Klein explains that these

communities also see weaker housing markets, higher borrowing costs, and more vacant properties. And because these communities were larger in the past, they find themselves struggling to support infrastructure built for a bigger tax base than they now have.

All of this can create a cycle of exit, in which the residents most able to find jobs elsewhere flee, leaving the economy even weaker, which drives out the next tranche of residents with the best opportunities elsewhere, and so on.

America’s political system is structured to advantage sparsely populated areas over densely populated ones. To the extent that more areas are seeing populations stagnate and even decline, and more economic growth is concentrated in the fastest-growing zip codes, turbulence is to be expected. Arguably, it’s already here.

President Trump has an answer to these demographic realities, maintaining in a briefing at the Mexican border in California

There is indeed an emergency on our southern border. It’s a colossal surge, and it’s overwhelming our immigration system. We can’t take you any more. Our country is full.

Maybe not quite so full. (Continue if you read that a moment earlier.) The Washington Post reports

As President Trump threatened to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border in recent days, his Department of Homeland Security nearly doubled the number of temporary guest worker visas available this summer.

The Homeland Security and Labor departments plan to grant an additional 30,000 H-2B visas this summer on top of the 33,000 they had already planned to give out, the agencies confirmed.

The H-2B visa allows foreign workers to come to the United States legally and work for several months at companies such as landscapers, amusement parks or hotels. About 80 percent of these visas went to people from Mexico and Central America last year, government data shows....

With the additional visas, the Trump administration is on track to grant 96,000 H-2B visas this fiscal year, the most since 2007, when George W. Bush was president.

There is a big problem with people being here illegally, and it's individuals and families overstaying their visas.  Citing a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, Politifact last year found "overstayers were 42 percent, or nearly half, of the country’s undocumented population in 2014" and "with the decline in illegal border crossings, it’s fair to estimate that visa overstayers now account for an increasing share of the country’s undocumented population." That same report, another media outlet summarized

finds that from 2016-2017, people who overstayed their visas accounted for 62 percent of the newly undocumented, while 38 percent had crossed a border illegally.

"It is clear from our research that persons who overstay their visas add to the US undocumented population at a higher rate than border crossers. This is not a blip, but a trend which has become the norm," said Donald Kerwin, CMS' executive director, in a statement.

Xenophobic? Ethnocentric? Evidently not, because Kerwin adds

"As these numbers indicate, construction of hundreds of more miles of border wall would not address the challenge of irregular migration into our country, far from it."

The study also finds that the undocumented population from Mexico fell by almost 400,000 people in 2017 and that since 2010, the number of undocumented from that country fell by 1.3 million.

In Politico last week, three Homeland Security veterans observed "A wall will not stop asylum seekers from coming to the United States and being able to claim asylum. A wall will not address, let alone fix, the issues with America’s asylum system and immigration courts." Nor will it account for the millions of individuals living in the USA illegally.

Donald Trump's policies are only making these problems worse. He is right, though, about one thing: there is a severe immigration problem. It's just not the one he has been selling for nearly four years.

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