Detention at the Southern Border

On July 2, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a new report on Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley. This report follows on the heels of another report MeBIC from May 30, 2019, finding similar dangerous conditions in several other detention centers on the southern border.

In response to the concerns raised in the OIG’s July report, the Department of Homeland Security, at Appendix A of the report, cites to the overwhelming number of individuals crossing the border, noting that multiple months of more than 100,000 arrivals was “overwhelming the ability of the Federal Government to respond.”

Yet, the government has  decades of experience in dealing with similar numbers of individuals arriving over the southern border, without it devolving into a similar detention crisis.   Customs and Border Protection data shows that from 1983 through 2006, in all but 5 of those years, more than a million people were apprehended on the southern border annually. During 9 of those years, apprehensions averaged in excess of 100,000 per month.  (Border crossings fell dramatically in 2007 and subsequent years due to the recession, which yielded sharp drops in Mexican border crossers.)

As this analysis from the Cato Institute points out, the current detention crisis is one of the government’s own making.   Conditions on the southern border do not have to be this bad.    Query whether this is the result of incompetence, negligence, or malevolence.