Reality Check – We are not being invaded by caravans of criminals entering through open borders.

At the end of  President Obama’s term, the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. was at its lowest level since 2007 with the sharpest declines occurring during the Obama presidency.  The Great Recession played a part as well as the sharp rise in deportations. Thankfully most of the deportations during this time were of those with a criminal history. That is not the case at this point.

The  Pew Research Center reports that the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. declined by 1.7 million from 2007 to 2016. This is a 13% decline from the peak in 2007.

There has also been a 46%  decline in the number of “recent arrivals” – those who entered in the last five years. For the time period between 2011 – 2016 there was an average of 386,000 annual unauthorized arrivals compared to 715,000 during  2002-07 according to the Pew Research Center.

On the website of the Pew Research Center, you can find their article  -5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S.

The other facts about illegal immigration this article discusses includes the following:

#  The number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. declined since 2007 but the total from other nations changed very little except for immigrants from Central America that grew by 400,000 during this time period. The totals from South America, Europe, and Canada went down and the remaining regions did not change significantly.

# The number of unauthorized immigrant workers in the U.S. fell as did their share of the total U.S. workforce – unauthorized immigrants now make up only  4.8% of the overall workforce but do make up 24% of farming occupations and 15% of construction occupations.

# Six states – California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois account for 58% of the unauthorized immigrants but the unauthorized immigrant population of these states decreased except for Texas where there was no statistically significant change. In only three states – Louisiana, Maryland and Massachusetts – the number of unauthorized immigrant population increased.

# A rising share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade. In 2016, 66% of unauthorized immigrant adults had been in the U.S. for more than 10 years compared to 41% in 2007. Many of these have lived in the U.S. for 15-20 or more years and have become well integrated into our communities – owning houses, running businesses that create jobs and raising U.S. citizen children.

So where do we go from here?  I sometimes explain to people that immigration has a pull factor as well as a push factor.  The pull factor bringing people to the U.S. is the freedom, safety, and opportunity in the U.S. The push factor is the horrific conditions existing in some countries. This push factor is what is driving the increase in immigrants from Central America – the crime, corruption and lack of economic opportunity. Thomas L Friedman, a conservative opinion columnist for the New York Times recently wrote an article – We need a High Wall with a Big Gate.  His article can be found at Friedman talks about the need to consider issues outside of the border – “the issues that are pushing migrants our way.” .  He argues (and I agree strongly) that we need a policy that “rationally manages the flow of immigrants into our country and offers a strategy to help stabilize the world of disorder” This policy would be the High Wall. As to the need for a Big Gate – he states “  the country won’t do as well as it can in the 21st century unless it remains committed to a very generous legal immigration policy — and a realistic pathway to citizenship for illegals already here — to attract both high-energy, low-skilled workers and high-I.Q. risk takers. They have been the renewable energy source of the American dream — and our secret advantage over China.”

Let’s us all hope for a New Year that is based on fact and compassion as well as an understanding that hard working immigrants strengthen the U.S.


Linda M Kaplan
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