An article entitled “Wrong on immigration” ran in the Aug. 18, 2013, Tampa Bay Times.
Its author Ezra Klein focused on Princeton University professor Doug Massey, a pre-eminent immigration scholar. Klein noted that the professor “slices Mexico-to-U.S immigration history into five periods, beginning in the early 20th Century.”
Each period reflects the number of immigrant influxes and departures to and from the United States, with the last period covering 1986 to the present.
“After passage of a comprehensive immigration law in1986,” Klein writes, “the United States began militarizing the border with Mexico . . .” Massey asserted that as millions of Mexicans entered the country illegally, millions also returned to Mexico, with about 85 percent of the new entries offset by departures.
This assertion, however, is without empirical evidence. Consider, for instance, the 2013 reports that show Hispanics dominating the fast-growing group of first-time home buyers in the United States.
The comprehensive immigration law, referenced by Klein, is the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) that neither reformed immigration procedures nor controlled illegal immigration.
IRCA, which remains the law of the land, is a disaster that has triggered a tide of illegal immigration over the past 27 years. It has done little to stop the accompanying immigration chaos.
The Defense Authorization Act of 1982 enacted in part to help stem the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico into the United States provided training, equipment, and surveillance to border drug interdiction by the Border Patrol and local law enforcement. In 1986, the U.S. government instituted “Operation Alliance” to stem illegal drug flow by providing military support.
Under President Clinton, U.S. Marines began border enforcement against drug smuggling, not against illegal border-crossers. In 1997, a marine shot a Mexican teenager and by July 1997 the government suspended use of troops on the border.
In 2006, the federal government permitted the use of National Guard soldiers for only support duties to deter drug smuggling.
Massey appears to say that immigrants from Mexico are crossing the border and staying, rather than returning home each year as they did in the past. Klein concurs, “The data supports Massey’s thesis: In 1980, 46 percent of undocumented Mexican migrants returned to Mexico within 12 months. By 2007, that number was down to 7 percent. As a result, the permanent undocumented population exploded.”
Illegal aliens tend to stay in the United States for a better lifestyle, better jobs, better education for their children, better healthcare, better welfare benefits, and freedom from drug cartels. Those who return to their homelands tend to be the exception.
Immigration advocates have “cooked the books” to establish the myth that net illegal border-crossing numbers are now at zero. Professor Massey might benefit from spending more time along the Southern border from Brownsville, Texas, to Border Field State Park, Calif., where each year since 1987, three to seven illegal aliens have entered the United States for each alien apprehended.
The net-zero immigrant number does not hold water. U.S. Border Patrol figures demonstrate that increased numbers of Central Americans and third-world illegal border-crossers are keeping the number of successful illegal border-crossers at three to each one apprehended.
In 2011, Massey promulgated his theory that the decrease in illegal Mexican border-crossers coming to the United States was due to “tectonic” cultural changes in Mexico — improved educational and economic conditions — while conditions in the United States worsened. Again the facts do not substantiate this myth.
While Mexican illegal border-crossers may be down from the yearly highs of 1.1 million in 1993-2004, illegal border-crossers from other countries keep the ratio at three for every one apprehended. U.S. Border Patrol statistics reflect 367,768 apprehensions in 2012 with 356,000 apprehensions for three quarters of this fiscal year.
The Pew Hispanic Center reported in July 2011 that its researchers found Mexican births in the U.S. had surpassed immigration (legal and illegal) as the driver of Hispanic population growth.
These births provide parents with mitigation from deportation and support of citizenship application; they provide the family with welfare benefits; and they provide parents with help to bring extended family members into the country. Massey is correct, more illegal aliens are seeking to reside in the United States rather than return to their homelands.
The current Senate immigration bill, which began with promise, ended with too many flaws, omissions, and mistakes to be enacted by the House. In contrast, the several House immigration bills are incremental and concise. Because the House bills tend to be clearer and doable, elected representatives actually are able to read them before casting their votes.
The current Senate and House immigration bills recognize that past efforts to militarize the border have not worked. Fewer Mexican immigrants ever return home, and human and drug smuggling by undocumented immigrants from many nations continues unabated.
National security requires a U.S. Border Patrol tailored for the 21st century.
James H. Walsh was associate general counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1983 to 1994. Read more reports from James Walsh — Click Here Now.
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